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HENRY v. COUNTY OF SAN MATEO

January 27, 2004.

VICKI HENRY, et al, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN MATEO, et al, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES BREYER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This civil rights lawsuit arises out of the suicide of Will Henry, a ward of the San Mateo County juvenile court. Now before the Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment. The primary issue is whether defendants were deliberately indifferent to Will's medical needs. After carefully considering the papers filed by the parties, and having had the benefit of oral argument, defendants' motions for summary judgment are GRANTED as to all claims against Luke Moix, M.D., and as to the federal claims against the Daytop Village defendants.

BACKGROUND

  Will Henry, age 15, was adjudged a ward of the San Mateo County juvenile court pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 602. On April 19, 2000, Will was placed in McAuley Neuro-psychiatric Institute ("St. Mary's"). Approximately five days later, Dr. Moix discharged Will to juvenile hall. Page 2

  For three weeks Will stayed at Hillcrest, juvenile hall, awaiting admission to Daytop Village. Daytop Village ran a facility which provided substance abuse treatment in a setting which provides no level of security for minors who are wards of the San Mateo County Superior Court. Will was finally admitted to Daytop Village on May 22, 2001. A few weeks later Will walked out of Daytop and killed himself. This lawsuit followed.

  PROCEDURAL HISTORY

  Plaintiffs, the parents and sole heirs of Will, subsequently filed this lawsuit in federal court against several defendants including St. Mary's Hospital, Dr. Moix, two San Mateo probation officers, Daytop Village, and various Daytop Village employees. They made claims for a violation of section 1983 based on deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, and conspiracy to violate section 1983, as well as state law claims for medical malpractice and negligence. Plaintiffs also alleged that the County of San Mateo and St. Mary's had a policy of deliberate indifference to County patients. Plaintiffs subsequently amended the complaint to add Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac, as a defendant. Eli Lilly later settled with plaintiffs.

  After three rounds of motions to dismiss the following claims remain: (1) Dr. Luke Moix: medical negligence, wrongful death and survivorship, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) St. Mary's Medical Center: medical negligence, wrongful death and survivorship, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) Daytop Village defendants: medical negligence, wrongful death and survivorship, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (4) San Mateo County: derivative liability for Daytop Village's negligence.

  All remaining defendants now move for summary judgment on all claims, state and federal.

  SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

  Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient Page 3 evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact finder could find for the nonmoving party, and a dispute is "material" only if it could affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). A principal purpose of the summary judgment procedure "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no `genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

  "In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations, and is required to draw all reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party." Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). However, an inference may be drawn in favor of the non-moving party only if the inference is "rational" or "reasonable" under the governing substantive law. See Matsushita, 477 U.S. at 588. Moreover, in determining whether to grant or deny summary judgment, it is not a court's task "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir.1996) (internal quotations omitted). Rather, a court is entitled to rely on the nonmoving party to identify with reasonable particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment. See id.

  DISCUSSION

 I. DR. LUKE MOIX

  A. Undisputed Facts

  On April 18, 2000, Will's mother, Vicky Henry, called Will's probation officer, Kim Minelli, to have Will taken into custody because she did not want him in her home. That same day the County of San Mateo ("the County") took Will into custody for a probation violation. While Will was being booked into juvenile hall, he informed the booking officer that he was suicidal. The County transferred Will to the San Mateo County Hospital on a California Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150 72-hour detainment. Hospital staff diagnosed Will with adjustment disorder, depression and polysubstance abuse. Page 4

  The next day Will was transferred to the McAuley Neuropsychiatric Institute at St. Mary's Hospital on a Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150 hold. Dr. Moix first evaluated Will on April 20. He admitted Will on a 5150 hold in order to evaluate him for a major depressive disorder, adjustment disorder with disturbance of mood, and underlying polysubstance abuse. On April 21, Dr. Moix certified Will for further treatment under section 5250 as a danger to himself.

  Dr. Moix and McAuley staff saw and assessed Will on a daily basis while he was at McAuley. He was placed on suicide precautions and was checked every 15 minutes during all shifts.

  On April 24, Dr. Moix discussed Will returning to juvenile hall. Will expressed anxiety about returning. That same day Dr. Moix started Will on the anti-depressant Prozac at a dose of 10 mg per day.

  Dr. Moix again evaluated Will on April 25. Will again reported being anxious about returning to juvenile hall. Dr. Moix increased Will's dosage to 20 mg per day. That same day nursing staff reported that Will was ...


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