Monday, November 25, 2002
Court of Appeal Affirms Dismissal of Nate Holden’s Lawsuit Against Sheriff’s Lieutenant, County
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A suit by Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden against a Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant and the county has been rejected by this district’s Court of Appeal.
There was no evidence that Lt. Ronnie Williams engaged in outrageous conduct, or breached any duty to Holden, at a 1998 meeting in a Pasadena restaurant, Justice Norman Epstein wrote Thursday in an unpublished opinion for Div. Four.
Holden claimed to have suffered severe emotional distress after Williams told him that a criminal case against Holden’s daughter-in-law might “go away” if he paid extortion money.
But the councilman’s admission that Williams did not encourage him to pay the money, and in fact told him that he would be “compromised” if he did pay it, is fatal to Holden’s contention that Williams committed an intentional tort by making the statement, Epstein said.
Williams said he asked a Sheriff’s Department colleague to set up a meeting after a community activist told him he had information regarding the case against Michelle Holden, who had been charged with having sex with a 15-year-old boy who babysat for the Holden children. She later pled no contest and was placed on probation for three years.
The Pasadena meeting involved Williams, Holden, and four others, including Pasadena Councilman Chris Holden, who is Nate Holden’s son. According to Nate Holden’s deposition testimony, Williams said that there had been a threat against the Holden family, but that the threat—and possibly the criminal case—could be taken care of.
“Money will make it go away,” was Williams’ statement, Holden testified. “All you have to do is pay money and it will go away.”
Holden sued for violation of his civil rights, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
The trial judge was correct, Epstein said.
There was no negligence, the justice explained, because there was no breach of duty. A peace officer, like a civilian, is not liable for damages for failing to rescue someone from a peril that the defendant did not create, Epstein wrote.
Nor did Williams commit an intentional tort, the justice declared. “Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to appellant, Lieutenant Williams did not threaten appellant; at most, he passed on word of a threat and suggested that money might make the threat and the lawsuit against appellant’s daughter-in-law go away,” he wrote.
This was not the type of “outrageous,” “extreme,” “atrocious,” or “utterly intolerable” behavior that California law requires a plaintiff to prove in order to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the jurist concluded.
The case is Holden v. Williams, B154378.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company