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Los Angeles Sheriff and County Not Liable for Sexual Assault by Deputy

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by a sheriff's deputy after she received a traffic ticket. The court held the deputy's superiors could not be held liable for failure to train deputies to "not sexually assault women" because state law already prohibited such conduct.

On January 20, 2011, Maria Flores went to the Vehicle Inspection Area at the Los Angeles County Court House in connection with a traffic ticket she had received. While there, Flores claims that an unknown officer, identified in the complaint as "Deputy Doe 1," touched and fondled her body without her consent.

Flores filed suit in federal court against numerous defendants, including the unnamed deputy, the County, the Sheriff, and nine other unnamed deputies. The district court dismissed all claims, and Flores only appealed the dismissal of her federal claims against the County and Sheriff for failure to properly train deputies.

The Ninth Circuit was succinct in affirming the district court when it said. "Flores's claim for failure to train fails because it is not plausible on its face." The court noted that state law already prohibited sexual assault and that it was unlikely that the inclusion of a section in the training manual directing deputies not to sexually assault women they come in contact with would have provided any deterrence if the threat of prison time did not.

"In light of the regular law enforcement duties of a police officer" there is not "a patently obvious need for the city [to] specifically train officers not to rape young women," wrote the court.

The court reasoned that since the County had no duty to train deputies not to do something the law already prohibited, and since Flores could not show a pattern of sexual abuse by deputies, she did not allege facts necessary to state a claim and dismissed her complaint. The complaint against "Deputy Doe 1" had been dismissed because he had not been served with process. See: Flores v. County of Los Angeles and Lee Baca, No. 12-56623 (9th Cir. 07/14/2014).

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Related legal case

Flores v. County of Los Angeles and Lee Baca