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Roland Haas v. County of El Dorado

April 20, 2012

ROLAND HAAS
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF EL DORADO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Roland Haas ("Plaintiff") initiated this action against, among others, Defendants California Tahoe Emergency Services Operations Authority ("Tahoe Emergency Services") and emergency medical technicians, or paramedics, Scott Blasser and Jesse Snyder (collectively, "Defendants") alleging violations of both state and federal law arising out of an incident during which the individual Defendants purportedly injected Plaintiff with a tranquilizer and transported him to a local emergency room despite Plaintiff's unequivocal statements declining medical treatment. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss ("Motion") each of Plaintiff's causes of action.

For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.*fn1

BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff was a preschool teacher or teacher's aide at the "Under the Magic Pine Tree" preschool in South Lake Tahoe. During the afternoon of March 23, 2011, while working at the school, Plaintiff began to feel light-headed. He exited the classroom in which he was stationed and subsequently fell to the floor.

Plaintiff's co-workers, believing Plaintiff may have suffered a seizure, called 911 to request medical assistance. Within two minutes of the incident, however, Plaintiff was able to stand on his own. He advised his co-workers that he was feeling fine and walked into the bathroom of his own accord in order to compose himself. When paramedics, including Defendants Blasser and Snyder, arrived on the scene, they found Plaintiff standing without assistance in front of a sink in the bathroom.

The paramedics questioned Plaintiff and subsequently advised him they were going to take him to Barton Memorial Hospital, which was located approximately one-hundred feet from the preschool.

Plaintiff informed the paramedics that he neither wanted nor needed to go to the hospital in the ambulance, that he was feeling fine, and that he was declining medical treatment. Despite Plaintiff's repeated refusal to be treated, the paramedics nonetheless insisted that they must transport Plaintiff to the hospital.

Plaintiff thereafter informed the paramedics that he did not want to incur an expensive ambulance charge to be transported to a hospital so close by and that he would either walk there himself or have a co-worker drive him there instead. Again according to the paramedics at the time, however, Plaintiff had no choice but to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Plaintiff nonetheless again refused the paramedics' assistance, declined to be treated or transported to the hospital and returned to work at the preschool.

At some point during this time, the paramedics purportedly contacted the police and requested assistance. Officers responded to the preschool, entered Plaintiff's classroom, ordered all children and staff, other than Plaintiff, to leave the room, closed the classroom door, and required Plaintiff to remain in the room in the presence of five police officers and four paramedics. The police officers and paramedics never advised Plaintiff that he was free to leave the room, nor did Plaintiff believe he would be permitted to leave if he tried.

After clearing the classroom, the officers advised Plaintiff that he was required to follow the paramedics' orders and to allow himself to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance.

Plaintiff again unequivocally declined medical treatment, assured the officers he felt fine, and reiterated multiple times that he was refusing treatment and would not go to the hospital in an ambulance. According to Plaintiff, the officers nonetheless continued to "badger" him with additional questions and comments.

When Plaintiff eventually did attempt to exit the classroom, the police officers allegedly attacked Plaintiff and tackled him, knocking him to the ground. According to Plaintiff, while he was under the control of officers, Plaintiff was forced to lie face down on the floor, was struck in the face, was handcuffed and was subjected to at least three "drive stun" taser shots to his body. Then, as is especially pertinent to Defendants' current Motion, police officers allegedly ordered Defendant Blasser or another paramedic to inject Plaintiff with a tranquilizer. Despite Plaintiff's clear statements that he had declined all medical treatment, one of the paramedics injected Plaintiff with the Federal Drug Administration-regulated drug Midazolam, which is allegedly meant for use before surgeries to induce sedation and amnesia.

Officers then placed shackles on Plaintiff's ankles, forced him onto a gurney, then further restrained him, placed him inside an ambulance and transported him the one hundred feet to the hospital's emergency room. Plaintiff remained restrained during his subsequent examination by medical staff before he was discharged by hospital personnel approximately thirteen minutes after arriving.

Following Plaintiff's discharge, police officers nonetheless still required Plaintiff to remain at the hospital for an extended period of time to await an evaluation by a representative from the Department of Mental Health. When the mental health specialist eventually arrived and examined Plaintiff, he determined Plaintiff did not present any danger to himself or others. It was only then that Plaintiff was permitted to leave the hospital.

Later that night, Plaintiff returned to the hospital because he was experiencing, among other things, severe pain in his left shoulder. Plaintiff was diagnosed as having suffered a shoulder sprain, an abrasion to his left wrist, and several wounds to his lower back, all of which were allegedly the result of having being attacked, restrained and tasered by the police officers. According to Plaintiff, the official conduct described in his Complaint was the result of policies, practices or procedures of, among other entities, Defendant Tahoe Emergency Services.

Plaintiff consequently initiated this suit alleging the following causes of action against Defendants: 1) unreasonable seizure and use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment (First Cause of Action); 2) unreasonable seizure of the person in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Second Cause of Action); 3) deprivation of right to refuse medical treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (Third Cause of Action); 4) municipal/supervisory liability (Fourth Cause of Action); 5) professional negligence/medical malpractice (Fifth Cause of Action; 6) intentional interference with civil rights in violation of the Bane Act, California Civil Code § 52.1 (Sixth Cause of Action); 7) false imprisonment (Seventh Cause of Action); 8) assault and battery (Eighth Cause of Action); and 9) medical battery (Ninth Cause of Action). Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss each of Plaintiff's claims against them. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

STANDARD

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),*fn3 all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F. 3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Rule 8(a)(2) "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the...claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell. Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not require detailed factual allegations. Id. However, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted).

A court is not required to accept as true a "legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court also is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Sciences Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

Furthermore, "Rule 8(a)(2)...requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 n.3 (internal citations and quotations omitted). "Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirements of providing not only 'fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also 'grounds' on which the claim rests." Id. (citation omitted). A pleading must contain "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. If the "plaintiffs . . . have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed." Id. However, "a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and 'that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'" Id. at 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

A court granting a motion to dismiss a complaint must then decide whether to grant a leave to amend. Leave to amend should be "freely given" where there is no "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant,...undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment . . . ." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (listing the Foman factors as those to be considered when deciding whether to grant leave to amend). Dismissal without leave to amend is proper only if it is clear that "the complaint could not be saved by any amendment." IntriPlex Techs., Inc. v. Crest Group, Inc., 499 F.3d 1048, 1056 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

ANALYSIS

A. Plaintiff's First and Second Causes of Action: Unreasonable Seizure of the Person in Violation of the Unreasonable Seizure and Use of ...


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