Ninth Circuit Sides with Bona Law and Reverses Summary Judgment on Appeal

The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded a district court’s grant of summary judgment in a negligence case brought by an immigration detainee against a government-contracted private security firm for injuries suffered as a result of the security contractor’s failure to protect the detainee from retaliatory “snitch” violence. Bona Law entered the case to represent the immigration detainee on appeal.

Rong Dong Li was a detainee at an immigration detention center who alerted guards to a violent altercation between two other detainees in a bathroom. A federal agent broke up the fight and instructed the security contractor guards—employees of Akal Security, Inc.—to haul them away and segregate them from the rest of the population. Despite this order, and the knowledge that “snitches” are at a very high risk of retaliatory violence, the security contractor simply released them back into the general population. Within a minute, one of the men recruited a cohort, returned to the bathroom and beat Mr. Li nearly to death. He suffered facial fractures and is permanently blind as a result.

Li filed suit, and Akal moved to dismiss. The district court granted the dismissal with leave to amend, but also ordered that Li could proceed only on one of his three theories of recovery for his negligence claim. But the evidence elicited in discovery supported those theories, and not the surviving theory. Akal moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted it without considering the theories that were purportedly dismissed.

Bona Law argued on appeal that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—particularly Rules 8 and 12—do not allow courts to dismiss theories, only claims. It also argued that the order on the motion to dismiss was improper because the complaint at issue was superseded by an amended complaint. The Ninth Circuit decided the motion-to-dismiss issue on the latter grounds.

Moreover, Bona Law argued that summary judgment was improper because the district court did not consider evidence to support Li’s alternative theories, and that in any case, disputes of fact precluded summary judgment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case for trial.

The case is Rong Dong Li v. Akal Security¸Inc. (No. 14-55956). Aaron Gott argued the appeal.

Every case is different and Bona Law’s victory in this case for its client does not mean that it will prevail in any other particular case.

If you are interested in having us represent you on appeal, please contact us.

You can read our article about the standards of review on appeal here.

And you can read an article about why you should consider hiring an appellate attorney here.