JOSE LUIS GARZA, individually and as Representatives of The Estate of Jose Luis Garza, Jr., Deceased; VERONICA GARZA, individually and as Representatives of The Estate of Jose Luis Garza, Jr., Deceased; CYNTHIA LOPEZ, As Next Friend of Jose Ruben Garza, Minor Son, Plaintiffs - Appellants
CITY OF DONNA, Defendant-Appellee
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
JOLLY, DENNIS, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge.
February 19, 2016, in a detention facility operated by the
Donna Police Department in Donna, Texas, Jose Luis Garza died
by suicide. His estate and survivors brought this suit under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a lone defendant, the City of
Donna, alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's
Due Process Clause in the time leading up to, and immediately
following, Garza's suicide. The district court granted
summary judgment to the City, and we affirm.
early morning of February 19, 2016, officers of the Donna
Police Department ("DPD") responded to a 911 call
by Veronica Garza. Her call concerned her son, Jose Luis
Garza, who was heavily intoxicated and arguing with his
brother at the family's home. Officer Mario Silva was the
first to respond at around 5:40 AM, with two other DPD
officers soon joining. Veronica told officers that "I
feared for his life" and "I'm afraid of him
hurting himself." Officer Silva arrested Jose Luis Garza
for "assault by threat" and transported him to
DPD's facility. Though called a "jail," the
district court clarified that it is "a short-term
holding facility where--unlike a county jail or state
prison-- detainees do not stay long." Officer Silva
booked Garza into the jail and placed him in a cell just
after 6 AM. Officer Silva took no particular mental-health
precautions when he brought Garza to the jail.
was placed in a cell that contained a camera, and some time
after 8 AM, he obscured the camera's lens. A DPD
employee, Minerva Perez, was tasked with monitoring the
jail's camera feeds under the jail's written policy.
Her shift had begun at 6 AM, and during the morning, she
answered 911 calls, one of her other duties. She did not
notice that Garza had blocked the camera in his cell. She
would later assert that, once jailers arrived to start their
shifts, it was their responsibility to monitor the jail's
jailers were Esteban Garza--no relation to the decedent--and
Nathan Coronado, who started their shifts at 8 AM. The
jailers heard Garza banging on his cell door and making other
noise to get their attention. It is disputed whether
Garza's noisemaking prompted the jailers to check on him.
The jail's written policy required hourly cell checks.
The jail's log showed a check was done at 8:10 AM, though
the check was not recorded contemporaneously. After that point,
the jailers worked on signs that DPD's police chief,
Ruben De Leon, directed them to put up in the jail. One read
"Welcome to Donna Hilton, " and another showed the logo
of the Punisher, a comic-book character known for carrying
out vigilante justice. Occupied with the signs, the jailers
missed that Garza had hanged himself, and it took the chance
arrival of agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) for Garza's suicide to be discovered.
The ICE agents had arrived at 8:40 AM and found him at 8:49
AM. It was unclear how long he had been hanging.
Garza was discovered hanging, roughly two minutes passed
before Lieutenant Rene Rosas and Captain Ricardo Suarez of
DPD began performing CPR on him. During this time, emergency
help was called, and it arrived in the form of Hidalgo County
emergency medical technician Frank Tafolla. Rosas and Suarez
had vigorously performed CPR in the interim, but they did not
answer Tafolla's questions about what had happened to
Garza. Consequently, Tafolla, who transported Garza to the
hospital, lacked information to relay to hospital staff upon
arrival. Garza was pronounced dead at the hospital at 9:12
lawsuit against the City of Donna via 42 U.S.C. § 1983
followed. Garza's estate, mother, and son alleged
violations of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment in
the hours leading up to Garza's suicide and in the
moments that followed. Their suit called five aspects of the
events of February 19 into question, each implicating the
actions of different DPD employees: Officer Silva, the
arresting officer who booked Garza into the jail; Minerva
Perez, the employee allegedly responsible for watching the
camera monitoring Garza's cell; the two jailers, Esteban
Garza and Nathan Coronado, who were present but did not
discover Garza's suicide; the two senior DPD officers,
Lieutenant Rosas and Captain Suarez, who performed CPR on
Garza but allegedly did not relate information to Tafolla,
the EMT; and the police chief, Ruben De Leon, whose
instruction to install the "Donna Hilton" and
Punisher signs had allegedly occupied the two jailers'
attention that morning. The district court rejected each
proposed basis for municipal liability and granted summary
judgment to the City, from which this appeal arises.
judgment is appropriate if "the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). We review the district court's
decision de novo, applying the same legal standard used by
the district court. Hyatt v. Thomas, 843 F.3d 172,
176-77 (5th Cir. 2016). We view all evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable
inferences in its favor. E.E.O.C. v. LHC Group,
Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 694 (5th Cir. 2014).
constitutional rights of a pretrial detainee . . . flow from
both the procedural and substantive due process guarantees of
the Fourteenth Amendment." Hare v. City of Corinth,
Miss., 74 F.3d 633, 639 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc)
(citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979)). These
rights include the right to medical care, Sanchez v.
Young County, Tex., 866 F.3d 274, 279 (5th Cir. 2017),
and the right to protection from known suicidal tendencies,
Flores v. County of Hardeman, Tex., 124 F.3d 736,
738 (5th Cir. 1997).
municipality may be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
the violation of these rights. See Monell v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).
When attributing violations of pretrial detainees' rights
to municipalities, the cause of those violations is
characterized either as a condition of confinement or as an
episodic act or omission. Hare, 74 F.3d at 644.
Cases of the former are attacks on "general conditions,
practices, rules, or restrictions of pretrial
confinement." Id. In cases of the latter,
"the complained-of harm is a particular act or omission
of one or more officials," ...