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Woods v Dobbertin

Woods v Dobbertin

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Case 4:11-cv-00385-HCE Document 1

Filed 06/29/11 Page 1 of 18

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Dennis I. Wilenchik, #005350 8 admin@wb-law.com 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Kathleen E. Martoncik, #023982 Attorneys for Plaintiff IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF ARIZONA ALAN PATRICK WOODS, Plaintiff, v. EDWARD S. DOBBERTIN, in his individual and official capacity as Police Chief of the Town of Patagonia; JANE DOE DOBBERTIN, a married individual; DALE L. STEVENSON in his individual and official capacities; JANE DOE STEVENSON, a married individual; PATAGONIA POLICE DEPARTMENT and the TOWN OF PATAGONIA; Defendants. COMPLAINT (TORT: Non-motor vehicle) (JURY TRIAL DEMANDED) No. ________________________

Plaintiff, Alan Patrick Woods, (hereinafter “Mr. Woods” or “Plaintiff”) for his Complaint against the Defendants, alleges as follows:

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1 2 3 4

JURISDICTION

1.

This action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the Fourth and

Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Jurisdiction is founded upon 28

5 U.S.C. §§1331 and 1343(3) and (4) and the aforesaid statutory and constitutional provisions. 6 7 8 9 10

2.

Plaintiff has satisfied the provisions of A.R.S. §12-821.01 by serving upon

Defendants a Notice of Claim more than sixty (60) days prior to the date of the filing of this Complaint. Defendants have not responded to the Notice of Claim.

3.

Venue is proper because the events at issue occurred in Santa Cruz County,

11 Arizona. 12 13 14

PARTIES

4.

Plaintiff Alan Patrick Woods is, and was at all times mentioned, a resident of

15 Santa Cruz County, Arizona. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

5.

Defendant Town of Patagonia (hereinafter “Town of Patagonia” or “Town”) is

a political subdivision of the State of Arizona, and a person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

6.

Defendant Patagonia Police Department (hereinafter “Patagonia PD”) is a

political subdivision of the State of Arizona, and a person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

7.

Upon information and belief, Defendant Edward S. Dobbertin (hereinafter

25 “Defendant Dobbertin”) is a married individual who resides in Pima County, State of 26 27

Arizona. At the time of the events in question, Defendant Dobbertin was the Chief of the Patagonia Police Department, or “Town Marshall” of the Town of Patagonia, Arizona. He
2

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1 was dismissed from that position in October 2010, in part due to the events described herein. 2 3 4

Defendant Dobbertin caused events to take place in Santa Cruz County, Arizona and was at all relevant times acting in furtherance of his marital community. He was the official

5 policymaker for the police department of the Town of Patagonia. Additionally, Defendant 6 Dobbertin, the Patagonia Police Department and the Town of Patagonia are vicariously 7 8 9 10

liable for the actions of their agents, officers, and employees. Defendant Dobbertin is named herein in his individual and official capacities.

8.

Upon information and belief, Defendant Dale L. Stevenson, (hereinafter

11 “Defendant Stevenson”) is a married individual who resides in Pima County, State of 12 13 14

Arizona. At the time of the incidents at issue, Defendant Stevenson was employed by Defendant Town of Patagonia, through the Patagonia Police Department. Defendant

15 Stevenson caused events to take place in Santa Cruz County, Arizona and was at all relevant 16 times acting in furtherance of his marital community. 17 18 19

All actions, omissions, or other

conduct of Defendant Stevenson as described herein were undertaken due to his employment with the Town of Patagonia and the Patagonia Police Department and under

20 color of state law. 21 22 23 24

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

9.

Defendant Stevenson was a certified police officer with the Tucson Police

Department prior to the incidents at issue in this case. Defendant Stevenson’s certification

25 as a police officer lapsed in 2002, following his retirement from the Tucson Police 26 Department. 27

10.

Defendant Stevenson was not re-certified until October 8, 2009.

3

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1 2 3 4

11.

Defendant Stevenson was appointed by Defendant Dobbertin to be a peace

officer in the Patagonia Police Department on September 8, 2009. Stevenson was issued a badge, uniform, and firearm during the first week of September 2009; he had keys to the

5 police station and access to its computer system; and he drove a police vehicle or otherwise 6 performed the official duties of a peace officer from that time forward. 7 8 9

12.

On September 22, 2009, Patagonia Police Officer Rick Ramsey (hereinafter

“Officer Ramsey”) and Defendant Stevenson responded to a domestic violence call. As a

10 result of that call, Officer Ramsey and Defendant Stevenson arrested the Plaintiff. 11 12 13 14

13.

Defendant Stevenson wore a Town of Patagonia police officer’s uniform at

the time of the arrest and also carried a firearm and badge.

14.

Plaintiff was not combative at the time of his arrest. He was handcuffed with

15 his hands behind his back. 16 17 18 19

15.

Officer Ramsey and Defendant Stevenson brought Plaintiff to the Patagonia

police station, which was less than half a mile away from where the arrest occurred.

16.

The Patagonia police station is, and was at the time, a trailer that is over 20

20 years old, roughly 50 feet long, and does not contain a holding cell. 21 22 23

17.

Plaintiff was instructed to sit on a couch in the Patagonia police station and

complied with this instruction. The locked entryway door to the station was approximately

24 10 feet in front of him. Defendant Stevenson sat at a desk 10 feet in front of Plaintiff and 30 25 feet to his left. While sitting at the desk, Defendant Stevenson faced in the same direction as 26 27

Plaintiff, away from Plaintiff and toward the wall in front of him.

4

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1 2 3 4 5

18.

Officer Ramsey left the trailer to interview witnesses at two locations nearby.

He returned approximately every 30 minutes. Plaintiff saw Officer Ramsey lock the front door every time before he left.

19.

Defendant Stevenson questioned Plaintiff for basic information, and Plaintiff

6 was very cooperative. 7 8 9

20.

Plaintiff told Defendant Stevenson that he was experiencing shoulder pain.

Defendant Stevenson sought permission from Defendant Dobbertin to move the handcuffs

10 from back to front. Because Plaintiff had been very cooperative, the request was granted. 11 Defendant Stevenson moved Plaintiff’s handcuffs from his back to his front, and Plaintiff 12 13 14 15 hours. 16 17 18

continued to sit on the couch without incident.

21.

Defendant Stevenson and Plaintiff then sat in the trailer for approximately two

22. 23.

At the time of the arrest, Plaintiff had a history of attempted suicide. While Plaintiff was at the police station, four full Coors Light beer bottles

19 were on a desk to the right of Plaintiff. 20 21 22 23

24.

Plaintiff stood and picked up one of the Coors Light bottles, intending to

break it and then use the broken bottle to cut his own throat.

25.

At that time, Plaintiff did not see Defendant Stevenson, who was behind him

24 30 feet and 10 feet to the side. Plaintiff never turned towards Defendant Stevenson at any 25 time with the bottle in his hand. 26 27

5

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1 2 3 4 5 6 throat. 7 8 9 10

26.

Plaintiff tried to break the bottle three times on the desk. Because it would not

break, Plaintiff moved past the desk toward a door jamb in the hallway, and further away from Defendant Stevenson.

27.

Plaintiff broke the bottle on the door jamb and then used it to cut his own

28.

At this time, Defendant Stevenson knocked Plaintiff to the floor and held him

in a headlock.

29.

After Defendant Stevenson knocked Plaintiff to the floor, he realized that

11 Plaintiff had cut his own throat. 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

30.

Plaintiff was taken to the hospital, where a doctor determined that the cuts had

come very close to his jugular vein.

31.

Defendant Stevenson later authored a police report in which he identified

himself as the “reporting officer.”

32.

The report stated that Plaintiff slashed and stabbed at Defendant Stevenson

19 with the broken beer bottle. 20 21 22 23

33.

Plaintiff did not slash or stab at Defendant Stevenson with the beer bottle.

Plaintiff used the bottle only to cut his own throat.

34.

Defendant Stevenson stated in his police report that Plaintiff tried to escape

24 through the front door of the police station. 25 26 27

35.

Plaintiff did not try to escape through the door to the station.

6

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1 2 3 4 5

36.

Patagonia is a very small town with a few police officers. Defendant

Dobbertin had spoken with Plaintiff before his arrest and recognized him at the time of the arrest.

37.

Defendant Dobbertin authored a police report in which he stated that “Plaintiff

6 used the broken bottle to slash at Officer Stevenson.” 7 8 9 10

38.

Defendant Dobbertin’s report also stated that Plaintiff “jumped up and ran to

the locked door in an apparent attempt to escape custody.”

39.

Defendant Dobbertin swore out a Complaint on September 25, 2009, in which

11 he charged Plaintiff with committing aggravated assault against “Officer D. Stevenson, 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

while engaged in the execution of official duties, a Class 2 Felony.” A copy of the Complaint is attached as Exhibit A.

40. 41.

Defendant Dobbertin also charged Plaintiff with escape, a class 4 felony. Defendant Dobbertin knew that Defendant Stevenson was not a certified

police officer at the time of Plaintiff’s arrest and at the time that he swore out the Complaint.

42.

Defendant Dobbertin knew or should have known that under Arizona law, no

20 person may exercise the authority or perform the duties of a peace officer unless he is 21 22 23

certified.

43.

Defendant Dobbertin knew that he employed Defendant Stevenson to perform

24 the duties of a peace officer in violation of Arizona law. 25 26 27

44.

Defendant Dobbertin had signed an application for waiver request for

Defendant Stevenson with AZPOST on September 9, 2009, but he understood or should

7

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1 have understood that Defendant Stevenson was not a certified police officer until the waiver 2 3 4

request was granted.

45.

Defendant Dobbertin had himself applied for a waiver when he was hired by

5 the Tucson Police Department in 1982. 6 7 8 9 10

46.

On September 24, 2009, Plaintiff’s bail was set at $400,000.00, largely based

upon Defendant Dobbertin’s sworn complaint alleging that Plaintiff had assaulted a peace officer and attempted to escape custody.

47.

At the preliminary hearing for Plaintiff’s criminal trial on October 8, 2009,

11 Defendant Stevenson was the only witness for the police. He testified that he had been a 12 13 14

police officer for the Town of Patagonia for four months.

48.

In fact, Defendant Stevenson was not entered onto the City’s payroll until one

15 week before the hearing, Oct 1, 2009. 16 17 18 19

49.

In addition, Defendant Stevenson was not a certified police officer until his

recertification on October 8, 2009.

50.

Upon information and belief, Defendant Stevenson did not know that his

20 recertification had been approved when he testified that he was a police officer. 21 22 23 24

51.

Defendant Stevenson testified at the preliminary hearing that he was on duty

on September 22, 2009. He also testified that he took custody of Plaintiff.

52.

Defendant Stevenson testified that Plaintiff slashed at him with the broken

25 beer bottle and that Plaintiff tried to escape through a locked door. 26 27

53.

Based on this testimony, a justice of the peace found that there was probable

cause to prosecute Plaintiff for assaulting a peace officer and escape.
8

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1 2 3 4 5

54.

On October 9, 2009, the Santa Cruz county attorney issued an information

charging Plaintiff with assaulting a peace officer and escape, in addition to unrelated charges arising out of the domestic violence incident.

55.

At Plaintiff’s trial on those charges, Defendant Stevenson was asked how long

6 he had been a police officer. He testified that he had been a police officer since 1979. 7 8 9 10

Defendant Stevenson failed to disclose that he was not a certified peace officer when he arrested Plaintiff.

56.

At Plaintiff’s trial, Defendant Stevenson was asked how long he had been with

11 the Patagonia police department. He testified that he started with the Department in April 12 13 14

2009.

57.

Plaintiff was tried and sentenced to 20.75 years in prison on May 26, 2010. Of

15 those 20.75 years, 15 were for assault on a peace officer and an additional 3.75 were for 16 escape. The remaining two years were for unrelated convictions arising out of the domestic 17 18 19

violence incident.

58.

The only crime that Plaintiff was convicted of and that carries a mandatory

20 prison sentence under law is assault on a peace officer. If Plaintiff had not been charged 21 with and convicted of assault on a peace officer, he might have obtained a probation 22 23 24

sentence.

59.

Plaintiff had been in jail for 8 months at the Santa Cruz County Jail at the time

25 of his sentencing. Plaintiff had never been in prison before he was sentenced. 26 27

60.

After the sentence, Plaintiff was transferred to Florence prison. Due to the

length of his sentence, he was placed in the “4 yard” at Florence prison.
9

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1 2 3 4

61. 62.

Plaintiff was assaulted and beaten while in the “4 yard.” Sometime after Plaintiff was sentenced, it was discovered that Defendant

Stevenson was not a certified police officer at the time of the arrest. Based on that

5 information, Plaintiff’s criminal defense counsel filed a Motion to Vacate his sentence. 6 7 8 9 10

63.

The Prosecutor agreed to vacate Plaintiff’s conviction for assault on a peace

officer, admitting that “Defendant was inappropriately tried on the charge of aggravated assault of a peace officer, inappropriately convicted and inappropriately sentenced.”

64.

The Prosecutor also stated that the Patagonia Police Department “misled the

11 Prosecutor’s office by not disclosing Stevenson was not AZPOST certified on September 12 13 14

22, 2009.”

65.

On September 8, 2010, Judge Montoya-Paez of the Superior Court in Santa

15 Cruz ordered that the charges against Plaintiff for escape and assault on a police officer be 16 dismissed with prejudice. The Judge ordered Plaintiff to be released from custody, and the 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

remaining charges arising out of the domestic violence incident to be dismissed without prejudice.

66.

The Judge’s minute entry stated that “the integrity of judicial system was

compromised with misleading and false statements”; that there was “a disservice to honest and hardworking peace officers”; and that the case “was tainted and that the integrity of [the] Court was compromised.”

67.

The Court also set an Order to Show Cause as to the Town of Patagonia Police

and Defendant Dobbertin. After a hearing, the Court found that Defendants Dobbertin and

10

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1 Stevenson “acted in a matter [sic] to obstruct the administration of justice,” and Defendants 2 3 4

Dobbertin and Stevenson were found in criminal contempt of court.

68.

Because of the Defendants’ conduct, Plaintiff suffered psychiatric trauma that

5 continues to affect him, as well as pecuniary loss and physical injury. 6 7 8 9

COUNT ONE – 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Loss of Liberty (As Against All Defendants)

69.

Plaintiff reasserts and realleges each and every paragraph, 1 through 68,

10 above, as though fully asserted herein. 11 12 13 14 15

70.

Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson caused the wrongful arrest, prosecution,

and conviction of Plaintiff without probable cause for assaulting a police officer and escape, in violation of Plaintiff’s due process rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

71.

As a result of the violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, Plaintiff

16 sustained damages, including but not limited to pecuniary loss, loss of liberty, mental 17 18 19

anguish, injury, and pain and suffering, all in an amount to be proven at trial.

72.

Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson had reason to know of, and consciously

20 disregarded a substantial risk that their conduct would significantly injure Plaintiff. Plaintiff 21 therefore requests an award of punitive damages against Defendants Dobbertin and 22 23 24

Stevenson in an amount to be proven at trial. Plaintiff does not seek punitive damages against Defendant Dobbertin in his official capacity or against the Town of Patagonia or the

25 Patagonia Police Department. 26 27

11

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

COUNT TWO Negligence / Gross Negligence (As Against All Defendants)

73.

Plaintiff reasserts and realleges each and every paragraph 1 through 72 above

as though fully asserted herein.

74.

Defendant Dobbertin, the Town of Patagonia and the Patagonia Police

Department had a duty of care to Plaintiff to employ only certified peace officers to perform the duties of police officers. Defendant Dobbertin, the Town of Patagonia and the Patagonia

10 Police Department breached this duty by employing Defendant Stevenson to perform the 11 duties of a certified police officer before he was certified. 12 13 14

75.

Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson had a duty to Plaintiff in conducting a

criminal investigation to act reasonably and responsibly with respect to instigating,

15 encouraging, and providing the information on which Plaintiff’s criminal prosecution was 16 based. Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson breached this duty by, among other things, not 17 18 19

disclosing Defendant Stevenson’s certification status.

76.

Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson breached these duties with actual or

20 constructive knowledge that their acts and/or omissions would result in harm to the Plaintiff. 21 Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson’s actions were flagrant and evince a lawless and 22 23 24

destructive spirit, constituting gross negligence.

77.

The Town of Patagonia and Patagonia Police Department are responsible for

25 the actions of their individual officers and employees under the doctrine of respondeat 26 superior. 27

12

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

78.

As a result of Defendants’ negligence and gross negligence, Plaintiff sustained

damages in an amount to be proven at trial. COUNT THREE Malicious Prosecution (As Against All Defendants)

79.

Plaintiff reasserts and realleges each and every paragraph, 1 through 78,

above, as though fully asserted herein.

80.

Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson wrongfully initiated or caused to be

10 initiated a criminal prosecution against the Plaintiff for the crimes of assaulting a police 11 officer and escape. 12 13 14

81.

Defendants had no probable cause to prosecute Plaintiff for those crimes, and

they initiated the prosecution with malice. As such, Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson

15 are liable to Plaintiff for the tort of malicious prosecution. 16 17 18 19

82.

The prosecution terminated in Plaintiff’s favor when the counts of assault

against a peace officer and escape were dismissed with prejudice on September 8, 2010.

83.

Defendants Town of Patagonia and the Patagonia Police Department are

20 reponsible for the actions of their individual officers and employees under the doctrine of 21 respondeat superior. 22 23 24

84.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ malicious prosecution of

Plaintiff, he was convicted and sentenced to 20.75 years in prison. Of those 20.75 years,

25 18.75 years were for assault on a police officer and escape. 26 27

85.

As a result, Defendant suffered damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

13

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

COUNT FOUR Abuse of Process (As Against All Defendants)

86.

Plaintiff reasserts and realleges each and every paragraph, 1 through 85,

above, as though fully asserted herein.

87.

Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson wilfully used the judicial process,

including the initiation and advancement of a criminal prosecution against the Plaintiff for ulterior motives, including but not limited to diverting attention from the illegal employment

10 of Defendant Stevenson as a police officer. 11 12 13 14

88.

Defendant Dobbertin also knew the Plaintiff and may have been motivated by

a personal bias to initiate criminal prosecution.

89.

The Town of Patagonia and the Patagonia Police Department are responsible

15 for the actions of their individual officers and employees under the doctrine of respondeat 16 superior. 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

90.

As a result, Plaintiff was damaged in an amount to be proven at trial. COUNT FIVE Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (As Against All Defendants)

91.

Plaintiff reasserts and realleges each and every paragraph, 1 through 90,

above, as though fully asserted herein.

92.

The conduct of Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson as described herein was

25 extreme and outrageous, and was either intended to cause emotional distress to Plaintiff or 26 was performed in reckless disregard of the near certainty that such distress would result 27

from their conduct.

14

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1 2 3 4

93.

Plaintiff sustained severe emotional distress as a result of the Defendants’

wrongful conduct.

94.

The Defendant Town of Patagonia and the Patagonia Police Department are

5 responsible for the actions of their individual officers and employees under the doctrine of 6 respondeat superior. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

95.

Plaintiff was damaged by these actions in an amount to be proven at trial. COUNT SIX Fraud/Negligent Misrepresentation (As Against All Defendants)

96.

Plaintiff reasserts and realleges each and every paragraph, 1 through 95,

above, as though fully asserted herein.

97.

Defendant Stevenson represented that he was a certified peace officer with the

15 City of Patagonia at the time of the Plaintiff’s arrest. Defendant Stevenson wore a Patagonia 16 police uniform, carried a badge and gun, and identified himself as a police officer at the 17 18 19

scene.

98.

Defendant Stevenson knew he was not a certified peace officer for the Town

20 of Patagonia at the time of the Plaintiff’s arrest and that his representation to the contrary 21 was false. 22 23 24 25

99.

Defendant Stevenson intended for Plaintiff to rely on his representation that he

was a certified peace officer.

100. Plaintiff had a right to rely on Defendant Stevenson’s representations and was

26 ignorant of the fact that Defendant Stevenson was not a properly certified peace officer. 27

15

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1 2 3 4 5

101. Defendant Dobbertin signed sworn documents indicating that Defendant
Stevenson was a certified peace officer for the Town of Patagonia at the time of the Plaintiff’s arrest and he intended for the Plaintiff to rely on his representations.

102. Defendant Dobbertin knew or should have known that Defendant Stevenson

6 was not a certified peace officer at the time of the Plaintiff’s arrest and Defendant 7 8 9

Dobbertin’s representations to the contrary were false.

103. Defendant Dobbertin intended for Plaintiff to rely on his representation that

10 Defendant Stevenson was a certified peace officer. 11 12 13 14

104. Plaintiff had a right to rely on Defendant Dobbertin’s representations and was
ignorant of the fact that Defendant Stevenson was not a properly certified peace officer.

105. Plaintiff relied on Defendants Dobbertin and Stevenson’s representations to

15 his detriment in, among other things, presenting his legal defense, causing him to be 16 convicted of assault on a peace officer and escape. 17 18

106. Defendants Stevenson and Dobbertin had a duty to Plaintiff not to provide

19 false information during the conduct of official duties, including but not limited to arrest, 20 filing of reports, signing of sworn documents, and testifying in court. 21 22 23 24

107. As a result of Defendants Stevenson and Dobbertin’s misrepresentations and
false statements, Plaintiff incurred damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

108. The Defendant Town of Patagonia and the Patagonia Police Department are

25 responsible for the actions of their individual officers and employees under the doctrine of 26 27

respondeat superior.

16

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1 2 3 4 5

109. Defendants are liable to the Plaintiff for fraud and/or negligent
misrepresentation in an amount to be determined at trial. PRAYER FOR RELIEF WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Alan Woods prays for judgment against Defendants as

6 follows: 7

A.

For compensatory damages, including but not limited to economic losses,

8 hedonic damages, and emotional distress; 9

B.

For taxable costs and pre- and post- judgment interest to the extent permitted

10 by law; 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

C. D. E.

For punitive damages; For attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988; and For any other relief that the Court deems just.

DATED this 29th day of June, 2011. WILENCHIK & BARTNESS, P.C. /s/Dennis UI. Wilenchik Dennis I. Wilenchik, Esq. Kathleen E. Martoncik, Esq. The Wilenchik & Bartness Building 2810 North Third Street Phoenix, Arizona 85004 admin@wb-law.com Attorneys for Plaintiff

17

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1

Original filed using the Court’s Electronic Case Management system th 3 this 29 day of June, 2011:
2 4 U.S. DISTRICT COURT 5 Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse 6 Phoenix, AZ 85003-2118 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

401 W. Washington Street, Suite 130, SPC 1

__/s/ K. Rhoad_

18

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