Koussaya v. City of StocktonAnnotate this Case
Stephanie Koussaya was taken hostage, along with two other women, by three armed bank robbers, Alex Martinez, Jaime Ramos, and Gilbert Renteria, Jr., used as a human shield in order to facilitate the robbers’ escape from the bank. The hostages were forced into a Ford Explorer belonging to one of the hostages, Kelly Huber. A high-speed chase with law enforcement followed. Huber was pushed out of the moving vehicle after Ramos shot her in the leg. For Koussaya and the other hostage, Misty Holt-Singh, the pursuit lasted for more than an hour, reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour, and included exchanges of gunfire between Martinez, who was firing an AK-47 assault rifle out of the back of the Explorer, and two Stockton Police Department (SPD) officers. Koussaya ultimately decided her best chance at surviving the ordeal was to open one of the rear side doors and throw herself from the moving vehicle: she believed that if she did not jump from the vehicle she would be killed by the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team when the chase inevitably came to an end. Minutes after Koussaya’s escape, the chase did come to an end, at which point police officers fired several hundred rounds into the Explorer, killing two of the robbers and the remaining hostage. Having sustained serious injuries during her escape from the Explorer, Koussaya sued the City of Stockton and its police department (collectively, the City), as well as two officers, asserting causes of action for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and general negligence. The City and officer defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motions and entered judgment in favor of defendants. Koussaya appealed. The Court of Appeal, after review, affirmed the trial court. Though the Court found the trial court abused its discretion in ruling on an evidentiary matter and also misapplied the Government Claims Act to improperly limit the scope of Koussaya’s claims, taking into account the improperly excluded evidence and properly viewing the factual basis of her claims against the officer defendants and the City, the Court determined each defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.