Judge Dismisses Rosenfeld Lawsuit; Attorney Pledges to Amend

First published in the May 28 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

A federal judge recently dismissed a complaint filed against the city of Burbank regarding the death of a man, which his family alleges police allowed by ignoring his medical needs. The family plans to file an amended suit.

U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer ruled this week that the case brought against Burbank over the death of 48-year-old Scott Rosenfeld lacked sufficient detail, though she said the plaintiffs can file an updated complaint by June 17.

Rosenfeld’s parents alleged in their suit that their son died in early January after Burbank police arrested him and ignored his signs of a medical emergency, later finding him dead in a holding cell.

The lawsuit targets the Burbank City Council, the Burbank Police Department, BPD Chief Michael Albanese and several unnamed police officers, arguing Rosenfeld’s Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

Stephen Yagman, a civil rights lawyer who is representing the Rosenfeld family, told the Leader that he is gathering additional facts to present to the judge, and intends to take the case to trial.

“Obviously, the plaintiffs weren’t there when their son was murdered, so they don’t have any personal facts,” Yagman said. “As we get more facts, we’ll put them before the court and the court will accept them.”

The lawsuit also includes a class-action claim representing “persons who have been subject to Burbank police brutality.” Yagman has alleged that the BPD has discriminated against people of color such as Rosenfeld, who was Black.

Joe McDougall, Burbank’s city attorney, said in a statement that the city’s motion to dismiss was “well plead.”

“In granting the motion, the court found that plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts to support their claims that the city violated the plaintiffs’ federal or state constitutional rights, engaged in a conspiracy, violated the [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] Act, or acted negligently or contrary to California law,” McDougall said.

This case is personal for Yagman, he said. He has been friends with Rosenfeld’s father since childhood, and was Rosenfeld’s godfather. He also said the family hired a private medical examiner to conduct an autopsy and based their allegations on the results.

Rosenfeld showed signs of nausea, incoherence and physical instability while in police custody, Yagman told the Leader, citing an unnamed BPD officer, yet he did not receive treatment.

“[The police] just didn’t give a damn, because his life meant nothing to them,” Yagman said.

The BPD said it could not provide details regarding the arrest that preceded Rosenfeld’s death because it concerned an ongoing investigation. According to police documents obtained via a California Public Records Act request, Rosenfeld had encountered Burbank police twice before, in 2017, to report his guitar stolen and, in 2019, after being arrested for allegedly possessing narcotics.

Rosenfeld’s parents are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.