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Reyes v. State

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

December 13, 2019

LEINETTE KAINOA REYES, et al., Plaintiffs,
STATE OF HAWAI‘I, et al., Defendants.



         This action concerns the alleged sexual assault of female inmates at the Women's Community Correctional Center (“WCCC”). Defendants State of Hawai‘i (“the State”), Nolan Espinda (“Espinda”), and Eric Tanaka (“Tanaka”) (collectively “State Defendants”)[1] move for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' state law claims. In his individual capacity, Tanaka also seeks summary judgment as to Plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seduction, assault and battery, and false imprisonment claims. See Motion, ECF No. 121. For the reasons articulated below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DEFERS IN PART the Motion. The Court GRANTS the Motion as to (1) Counts V to VIII and X to XII against Tanaka and Espinda in their official capacities; (2) Counts VII, VIII, X, XI, and XII against the State; and (3) Counts V, VIII, and XI against Tanaka in his individual capacity. The Court DEFERS ruling as to Counts I to IV against Tanaka in his individual capacity.


         I. Factual History

         Plaintiffs Leinette Kainoa Reyes; Dana K.A. Baba; Darnell K. Maluyo Artemio Panlasigui, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Dawnielle C. Panlasigui, deceased, and as next friend to A.P., a minor; Tiana M. Soto; Maelene Cruz; Monica J. Alves Peralto; Shawna L. Tallman; Reyna M. Banks; and Victoria Suanoa-Piper (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) allege that while incarcerated, they were regularly sexually assaulted by four Adult Correctional Officers (“ACOs”) and one civilian employee. ECF No. 51 at 3-4. Plaintiffs allege that these assaults often occurred in the WCCC Control Stations. Id. ¶¶ 34-90. Plaintiffs allege multiple instances of inappropriate touching, forcible oral sex, digital penetration, and vaginal intercourse with the promise of privileges. Id. Plaintiffs allege that as a result of the fear and anxiety caused by these sexual assaults, Plaintiff Dawnielle Pawnlasigui committed suicide. Id. ¶¶ 58-59. Plaintiffs allege that the State, Espinda (as Director of the Department of Public Safety), and Tanaka (as warden of WCCC) failed to supervise their employees and condoned a culture, pattern, and policy of sexual abuse given the prevalence of the assaults and the similar attendant circumstances. Id. ¶¶ 91-123.

         Plaintiffs further allege that Espinda, Tanaka, and the ACOs seduced them with promises of marriage; all Defendants were responsible for Plaintiffs' sexual assaults; and all Defendants caused Plaintiffs to be restrained against their will and by force of coercion. Id. ¶¶ 125, 139, and 158.

         II. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs commenced this action on March 30, 2017. On July 26, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 24, which was dismissed by stipulation on November 15, 2017. ECF No. 44. Plaintiffs filed their Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”) on October 19, 2018. ECF No. 51. The TAC asserts the following claims: (1) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I- IV); (2) seduction (Count V); (3) negligence (Count VI); (4) negligent hiring, training, and supervision (Count VII); (5) assault and battery (Count VIII); (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IX); (7) negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count X); (8) false imprisonment (Count XI); and (9) wrongful death (Count XII). Id. Plaintiffs pray for general, special, and punitive damages; reimbursement of costs and expenses; pre- and post-judgment interest; injunctive and declaratory relief; and any additional relief deemed appropriate. Id. at 37.

         On April 18, 2019, the Court issued an Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants State of Hawai‘i, Nolan Espinda, and Eric Tanaka's Motion to Dismiss Third Amended Complaint Filed on October 18, 2018. ECF No. 71. The Court dismissed Counts I to IV with prejudice against the State Defendants and denied the motion with respect to Counts I to IV against Tanaka in his individual capacity and as to Counts V to XII against all Defendants. Id. at 16.


         Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). In a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Martin, 872 F.2d 319, 320 (9th Cir. 1989).

         Once the moving party has met its burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See T.W. Elec., 809 F.2d at 630; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The opposing party may not defeat a motion for summary judgment in the absence of any significant probative evidence tending to support its legal theory. See Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party cannot stand on its pleadings, nor can it simply assert that it will be able to discredit the movant's evidence at trial. See T.W. Elec., 809 F.2d at 630; Blue Ocean Pres. Soc'y v. Watkins, 754 F.Supp. 1450, 1455 (D. Haw. 1991).

         If the nonmoving party fails to assert specific facts, beyond the mere allegations or denials in its response, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered. See Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 884 (1990); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). There is no genuine issue of fact if the opposing party fails to offer evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Citadel Holding Corp. v. Roven, 26 F.3d 960, 964 (9th Cir. 1994); Blue Ocean, 754 F.Supp. at 1455.

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, “the court's ultimate inquiry is to determine whether the ‘specific facts' set forth by the nonmoving party, coupled with undisputed background or contextual facts, are such that a rational or reasonable jury might return a verdict in its favor based on that evidence.” T.W. Elec., 809 F.2d at 631 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)) (footnote omitted). Inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Id. However, when the opposing party offers no direct evidence of a material fact, inferences may be drawn only if they are reasonable in light of the other undisputed background or contextual facts and if they are permissible under the governing substantive law. See Id. at 631-32. If the factual context makes the opposing party's claim implausible, that party must come forward with more persuasive ...

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