Friday, December 6, 2013

Banks v. City of Emeryville case brief

Banks v. City of Emeryville case brief summary
109 F.R.D. 535 (N.D. Cal. 1985)

Plaintiffs, decedent's family, filed suit under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 against defendants, city and police chief, arising from decedent's death during a fire in decedent's cell in a temporary detention facility. Defendants sought indemnification or contribution from third party defendants, manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the burned mattress in decedent's jail cell. The third party defendants sought judgment on the pleadings.

Defendants contended that the fire in the decedent's cell was a suicide in which she lit herself and her cell mattress on fire and that the mattress was dangerous and defective in allowing the fire to spread quickly. The third party defendants claimed that the defendants were attempting to seek indemnity based directly on § 1983.


  • The court held that because the third party defendants did not act under color of state law, they could not be found to have violated § 1983 and claims for indemnification thereunder were impermissible. 
  • However, the court found that because it was possible that a jury could decide that tortious acts of the third party defendants were at least in part responsible for the decedent's death, impleader was appropriate under Fed. R. Civ. P. 14 on state law causes of action.

The court denied the third party defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, except as to the defendants' claim for relief under § 1983, which was dismissed.

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