Court of Appeal:
Man’s Assault, Battery Convictions Don’t Bar Suing Victims
Plaintiff Might Also Have Been Unlawfully Struck, Opinion says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A man who pled guilty to the assault and battery of a man and his mother during a Halloween night confrontation is not precluded from suing those victims for attacking him, the Third District Court of Appeal held yesterday, reversing a judgment of dismissal that followed the sustaining of demurrers without leave to amend.
The plaintiff is Matthew Davies, a self-described “entrepreneur and real estate investor.” On Oct. 31, 2018, in a costume that lent to him the appearance of Pennywise, a scary clown from the 2017 movie, “It,” he was walking down the street roaring and otherwise allegedly scaring trick-or-treating youngsters.
An altercation ensued between Davies and Max Iles, father of a special-needs boy who was purportedly frightened by Davies, culminating in Davies striking Iles with a glass he had in his hand, having come from a party. Iles, bloodied, wound up in the hospital.
Judicial Notice Taken
Davies pled guilty to a felony assault, with a great bodily injury enhancement, and a further enhancement based on having served a prison term. He spent time in a federal prison based on his 2013 conviction in connection with running a marijuana dispensary.
Also, he pled guilty to the misdemeanor battery of Iles’s mother, Mary Iles. There were no charges relating to the encounter with Samatha Iles, sister of Max Iles, who was also involved in the skirmish.
He was placed on probation for a five-year period.
Davies sued Max Iles, Mary Iles, and Samatha Iles for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. San Joaquin Superior Court Judge George Abdallah Jr. took judicial notice of Davies’s conviction for assault and battery and held that the matter has already been adjudicated.
In his unpublished opinion reversing the judgment, Justice Peter A. Krause said:
“The first amended complaint is not a collateral attack upon the guilty pleas. It does not seek to invalidate or avoid the effect of the prior criminal judgment. Instead, the civil complaint raises an issue that the criminal case neither addressed nor resolved: whether defendants committed torts against Davies before the conduct underlying his criminal conviction.
“Defendants have failed to explain, and we are unable to discern, how the facts alleged in this lawsuit are fatally inconsistent with Davies’s prior criminal pleas. The admission by Davies that he committed assault and battery against certain defendants is not obviously incompatible with allegations that defendants also committed an assault and battery (and other torts) against him.” The fact of the guilty pleas was admissible as evidence, it was not dispositive, the justice declared.
Issue preclusion (res judicata) does not apply, he said, explaining:
“Here, the civil assault and battery causes of action against defendants do not involve the same primary right as the criminal assault and battery charges against Davies. The latter involves a violation of a public duty, subjecting Davies to criminal prosecution for wrongful conduct against defendants. The former involves a claim for monetary damages for an (alleged) invasion of Davies’s private right to be free of tortious conduct. Even if they arise from the same underlying incident and involve some common facts, the alleged harm suffered by Davies is different and the civil causes of action could not have been raised in the prior criminal proceeding.”
Claim preclusion (collateral estoppel) does not apply either, Krause wrote. For that doctrine to apply, he said, an issue must have “been actually litigated and decided in a prior proceeding,” which does not happen where there is a guilty plea.
The case is Davies v. Iles, C095731.
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