A federal judge Tuesday refused to dismiss most claims, including those involving allegations of excessive force and wrongful death, in a lawsuit filed against Kern County in the death of David Sal Silva.
“This is a resounding victory for us because the judge ruled in our favor in almost all of the claims, both federal and state,” said attorney Neil K. Gehlawat of Chain Cohn Stiles, representing several plaintiffs in the case. “We’re very pleased with the judge’s ruling in that respect, and believe his ruling is consistent with the evidence in the case.”
A trial is set to begin in U.S. District Court in Fresno on May 12.
Chain Cohn Stiles is representing Silva’s four children, his mother and the estate of his father, which is now in the care of his brother, Christopher Silva. The law firm of Rodriguez & Associates is representing Silva’s girlfriend.
Attorney Daniel Rodriguez could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. County Counsel Theresa Goldner could also not be reached.
The county had asked for summary judgment in the 11 causes of action filed by Silva’s family, who allege law enforcement used excessive force in restraining the 33-year-old outside Kern Medical Center just before midnight on May 7, 2013. Silva died while in the custody of deputies after being struck with batons and subdued with a police dog.
The coroner’s office ruled Silva died as a result of cardiac arrest from hypertensive heart disease. Methamphetamine found in his system and his chronic heart disease caused his heart to stop, according to coroner’s findings.
Plaintiffs allege Silva’s death was a homicide and he asphyxiated as a result of being hobbled while deputies applied pressure on his back.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill gave a mixed ruling Tuesday, granting summary judgment in some instances, but denying most of the motions. Summary judgment is granted if a judge finds undisputed facts and the law are clear an opposing party would not prevail if the matter went to trial.
The following is a partial breakdown of O’Neill’s decision as included in court documents: