S.F. Beats Suit Over Mistaken ID

Remember the plaintiff in San Francisco Superior Court — the one with a most unusual name — who claimed she kept getting falsely arrested because someone legitimately arrested back in 1999 had impersonated her?

Well, the city of San Francisco escaped liability for Stancy Nesby’s problems last week, and the defense didn’t even need to question her false arrest claims.

According to a ruling granting summary judgment for the city, Nesby’s saga can be traced back to the imposter’s failure to show up for court, a no-show that resulted in two bench warrants in Nesby’s name. And, though the real Nesby went to court in 2002 and established she was not the one that authorities wanted, the warrants remained outstanding for years, leading to “seven different incidents with law enforcement officers” outside San Francisco.

Nesby’s lawyers tried arguing San Francisco employees had a special duty to protect Nesby, given promises they’d allegedly made once the mix-up was established. But Judge Ronald Quidachay concluded differently, finding that no city employee owed her anything in this situation, legally speaking. And even if Nesby had been able to establish that a special duty had been broken, Quidachay added, city employees would be protected by quasi-judicial immunity.

Matt Gonzalez, who represented Nesby at a recent hearing alongside his law partner, Bryan Vereschagin, said they will probably appeal the decision.

“The court is saying that as a matter of law, you can’t sue a municipality under these conditions,” said Gonzalez, of San Francisco’s Gonzalez & Leigh. “As a former legislator and a former president of the Board of Supervisors, what I see is that bureaucracies don’t correct problems when they aren’t responsible for their actions.” Their client’s false imprisonment suits related to all this, against jurisdictions outside San Francisco, are still pending, he added.

Spokesman Matt Dorsey said the city attorney’s office felt sympathetic, adding that Nesby “faced the ultimate nightmare scenario in terms of apparent identity theft.

“At the same time,” he added, “it’s been our position that the city can’t be held liable for a bench warrant that’s issued by a court or the actions of another police department in another jurisdiction.”

Pam Smith

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