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Sterni v. Lepage

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 24, 2014



RONALD M. WHYTE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a state pretrial detainee proceeding pro se, brought the instant civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendant Unit Supervisor LePage violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures by forcibly withdrawing plaintiff's blood without consent. Finding that the complaint, liberally construed, stated a cognizable claim, the court ordered service upon defendant. Defendant has moved for summary judgment.[1] Although given an opportunity, plaintiff has not filed an opposition.[2]

For the reasons stated below, after a review of the record, the court concludes that plaintiff has not demonstrated sufficient evidence to preclude summary judgment. Accordingly, the court GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment.


The entirety of plaintiff's claim is that defendant forced plaintiff to submit to a blood draw against plaintiff's beliefs when defendant knew or should have known that plaintiff was leaving Napa State Hospital ("NSH") for county jail. Plaintiff believed that if he fought against having his blood drawn, plaintiff would be overmedicated and strapped down in five point restraints.

On September 2, 2011, plaintiff was charged with the crime of attempting to remove a firearm from a police officer, obstruction of a police officer, and battery on a police officer. (Tierney Decl. ¶ 4.) On December 20, 2011, plaintiff was judged mentally incompetent to stand trial and mentally incompetent to refuse antipsychotic medications as part of treatment. (Id.; Unbates Numbered Docs., Part 2 at 441-45.) The San Joaquin County Superior Court also found that, without treatment, plaintiff would likely suffer physical or mental harm, and that plaintiff was a danger to others as a result of his mental disorder. (Id. at 443, 445.) The Superior Court ordered plaintiff to be involuntarily medicated as prescribed by a treating psychiatrist. (Tierney Decl. ¶¶ 3-4.)

Plaintiff was admitted to NSH on February 1, 2012. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 6.) Generally, plaintiff was uncooperative with receiving his medication, but otherwise had no behavior problems. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) However, on March 8, 2012, plaintiff assaulted Dr. Jacques, plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, during a routine interview, which led Dr. Jacques to be hospitalized. (Id. ¶ 9.) As a result, plaintiff was placed into seclusion and had to submit to five-point restraints. (Id.) Thereafter, plaintiff was placed in walking restraints until he could be discharged as competent to stand trial. (Id.) Dr. Punia replaced Dr. Jacques as plaintiff's treating psychiatrist. (Id.)

On March 12, 2012, Dr. Punia directed defendant to have plaintiff's blood drawn in order to determine the level of the psychotropic medication called Depakote in plaintiff's blood, and also to check plaintiff's liver function. (Id. ¶ 11.) Defendant is "blood certified, " meaning that he is certified to perform blood draws. (LePage Decl. ¶ 1.) When defendant approached plaintiff for the blood draw, plaintiff stated that it was "against his beliefs" to submit to a blood draw because he did not like for his blood to be taken. (Id. ¶ 6.) Ultimately, plaintiff allowed defendant to draw his blood. (Id.) Thereafter, defendant submitted plaintiff's blood sample to the lab to test for toxicity levels. (Id.)

Plaintiff was discharged back to court as competent to stand trial on March 16, 2012. (Unbates Numbered Docs. at 13.)


A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits demonstrate that there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings, discovery and affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. But on an issue for which the opposing party will have the burden of proof at trial, as is the case here, the moving party need only point out "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and, by its own affidavits or discovery, "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The court is only concerned with disputes over material facts and "factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. at 248. It is not the task of the court to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact. Keenan v. Allen , 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party has the burden of identifying, with reasonable particularity, the evidence that ...

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