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Banks v. City of Emeryville

Law Dictionary
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Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Civil Procedure Keyed to Hazard

Citation. 109 F.R.D. 535 (N.D. Cal. 1985)

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff’s family member was arrested and burned to death in her holding cell. Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging that the jail cell was inadequately furnished with dangerous materials and that the police department inadequately supervised the jail. Defendant alleged that her death was a suicide. Defendant filed a third party complaint, seeking indemnification or contribution from these parties based on a theory that the mattress was a defective product. The third party defendant’s filed a motion to dismiss the third party complaint.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

If a state law permits indemnification or contribution recovery in a third party complaint, then a third party plaintiff may seek indemnification and contribution from a third party defendant relying on that state law.

Facts.

On Halloween 1982, Mercedes Banks was arrested in Emeryville, California for public intoxication. She was brought to the Emeryville Police Department where she was placed in a holding cell. Later that night, the police station caught fire and she burned to death inside. It was eventually determined that the fire originated in her mattress. Banks’ family (Plaintiff) sued the City of Emeryville (Defendant) and the chief of the Emeryville Police Department (Defendant), alleging under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that the jail cell was inadequately furnished with dangerous material. Plaintiff further contended that the police department inadequately supervised the jail, which lead to Banks’ death. Defendant argued that Banks’ death was a suicide. The defendants later filed a third party complaint against various parties who were responsible for manufacturing, distributing, and selling the mattress involved in Banks’ death. The defendants sought indemnification or contribution from these parties based on a theory that the mattress was a defective product. The third party defendant’s filed a motion to dismiss the third party complaint.

Issue.

Whether a third party plaintiff can bring a third party complaint seeking indemnification or contribution solely on the basis of state law.

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