Estate of Amaro v. City of Oakland

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 08-28-2011
  • Case #: 10-16152
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bea for the Court; Circuit Judge Schroder and District Judge Sammartino
  • Full Text Opinion

A statute of limitation defense will succumb to equitable estoppel when defendants misrepresent and withhold facts material to the cause of action.

In March 2009, Montoya filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against the City of Oakland on behalf of her son’s estate alleging that Oakland police officers used excessive force during his arrest and later refused him medical treatment causing his death. The City moved that the claim was time-barred under the applicable two-year statute of limitations. The district court denied the motion holding that Montoya had shown a “plausible factual basis” that the City was equitably estopped from raising a statute of limitations defense. Montoya alleged that she failed to bring the suit before the statute of limitations because the police misrepresented the nature and cause of her son’s death and refused to show her the homicide and internal affairs reports. The police explained that her son died on the streets, in a gang related incident. However, according to medical and eyewitness reports he died at a friend’s house due to injuries sustained by the excessive force of the police during his arrest. The district court certified the equitable estoppel question to the Ninth Circuit. The Court affirmed the district court’s ruling, holding a plaintiff can know or suspect that they have a cause of action and still be “ignorant of the true facts” of the case due to a “reasonable reliance” on the defendant’s statements or conduct. Therefore, the City is barred from using the statute of limitations defense. AFFIRMED.

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