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Campbell v. City of Coeur D'Alene

November 1, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge



The Court has before it Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 15), Motion to Strike Declaration of Plaintiff Theresa Lynn Campbell and attached Witness Statements (Dkt. 19), and Motion to Withdraw the Motion to Strike the Declaration of Plaintiff (Dkt. 21). The Court heard oral argument on the motions on October 6, 2010 and now issues the following decision.


On the evening of January 3, 2009, Theresa Lynn Campbell suffered a panic attack while a passenger in her friend Jesse Daly's truck. (Campbell Dep., p. 34; Decl., ¶ 4). At the onset of the attack, Daly drove Campbell to the Kootenai Medical Center (KMC) emergency room (ER). (Campbell Dep., p. 34). Campbell lost consciousness soon after the attack began. (Campbell Dep., p. 38). When she woke up, Campbell was being treated by ER medical staff members. (Campbell Dep., p. 38; Decl., ¶ 5).

When the ER staff wanted to conduct medical tests, Campbell refused because she had recently undergone tests related to a prior panic attack and could not afford more tests. (Campbell Dep., pp. 40-41). She left the ER with Daly after midnight. (Campbell Dep., pp. 41, 45).

About a mile away from the hospital, Campbell suffered another panic attack. (Campbell Dep., p. 45). She lost consciousness again and woke up in room 11 of the Kootenai Medical Center ER (Campbell Dep., pp. 45-46; Mortensen Aff., ¶ 10). This time, an ER nurse attempted to administer medical tests forcefully. (Campbell Dep., p. 47; Decl. ¶ 6). Campbell pushed the nurse's hands away, adamantly refused the tests, and informed the nurse that she wanted to leave. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 6). The nurse left the room. (Campbell Dep., p. 48; Decl. ¶ 6).

Soon after, Campbell noticed "a commotion" in the hallway. (Campbell Dep., p. 48). Campbell left the room in her hospital gown and saw Daly with police officers. (Campbell Decl. ¶ 7). Daly said he was being arrested for driving under the influence. (Campbell Dep., p. 49). Campbell approached Daly and the officers, asked why Daly was being arrested, and expressed her frustration about the situation. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 11, Campbell Dep., pp. 49-50). Officer Spencer Mortensen ("Mortensen") ordered Campbell back to her room and she returned to room 11. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 12).

Mortensen testified in his affidavit that ER staff members escorted Campbell back to her room. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 12). Mortensen heard Campbell scream for staff members to leave the room and witnessed several additional staff members enter the room. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 13). As Mortensen approached, he was stopped by an staff member who told him that Campbell had hit him. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 14). Mortensen also witnessed what he considered "combative" behavior from Campbell. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 17). When Campbell tried to shut the door to the room, Mortensen testified that he was concerned that the room contained medical supplies that could be used as weapons, or that Campbell might barricade herself inside the room. (Mortensen Aff., ¶¶ 15, 18). Mortensen prevented Campbell from shutting the door by stepping into the doorway. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 19).

Mortensen testified in his affidavit that Campbell slammed the door against his body, and screamed at him to leave the room. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 20). She then formed fists with both hands and hit him in the chest. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 21). At that point, Mortensen grabbed Campbell's left arm with his left hand and her right shoulder with his right hand, took her to the ground, and placed her wrists in handcuffs. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 22). He placed her under arrest for battery on a police officer, I.C. § 18-915. (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 23).

Campbell conceded in her deposition that she first attempted to shut the door while Mortensen was standing in the doorway. (Campbell Dep., p. 50). However, in her subsequent declaration, Campbell testified that she did not slam the door into Mortensen's body. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 8). Campbell then released the door to retrieve her belongings and Mortensen followed her into the room, standing between her and the door. (Campbell Dep., p. 55;Decl., ¶ 8). Campbell indicates that she tried to get past him and urged him to let her leave. (Id.) When he would not, she began to panic. (Id.) She started to hyperventilate. (Campbell Dep., p. 58; Decl., ¶ 8). As Campbell tried to "shove" or "push" by Mortensen, he grabbed her arm, told her "That's it. I've had enough of you," and placed her under arrest. (Campbell Dep., pp. 55,58-59; Decl., ¶ 10).

Campbell testified in her declaration that she attempted to walk past Mortensen, but that she did not strike Mortensen in any manner with her hands. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 9). She described in more detail how Mortensen grabbed her hand by the thumb, pulled it behind her back, and pushed her face into the hospital bed. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 10). Campbell then lost consciousness again. (Campbell Dep., p. 59, Decl., ¶ 10).

Campbell regained consciousness several times that morning; she testified that she woke up when her head "smacked" the side of the police car as she was "shoved" into the backseat and when she was "slammed" to the ground in the holding cell. (Campbell Dep., p. 59, 68; Decl., ¶¶ 11-13). In the cell, she awoke in severe pain, and with cuts and bruises on her arms. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 13). Campbell was booked later that day and released from jail on January 5, 2009. (Campbell Decl., ¶¶ 13-14).

After her release, Campbell wore a sling and bandages for weeks, and experienced bruising and pain for months. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 14). She testified that she experienced serious psychological trauma from the incident, including a fear of law enforcement. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 17).

On February 6, 2009, Campbell pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace (I.C. § 18-6409) in Kootenai County District Court. (Williams Aff., Ex. A).


1. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, id. at 255, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Liberty Lobby, 477 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by her affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

However, the Court is "not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Forsberg v. Pac. Northwest Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1418 (9th Cir. 1988)). Instead, the "party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable facts." Southern California Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003). Statements in a brief, unsupported by the record, cannot be used to create an issue of fact. Barnes v. Independent Auto. Dealers, 64 F.3d 1389, 1396 n.3 (9th Cir. 1995).

2. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants seek summary judgment on all claims in Campbell's Complaint. The Court will address each claim below.

A. Unlawful ArrestWithout Probable Cause

Campbell claims that Defendants violated her Fourth Amendment rights when Officer Mortensen performed a custodial arrest without probable cause. Defendants argue that probable cause existed for the arrest.

It is well established that the Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unlawful seizures, and requires that officers have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed before an individual is formally arrested. See Dunaway v. New York, 443 U.S. 200, 212-13 (1979). Probable cause exists "when the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge are sufficient to cause a reasonably prudent person to believe that a crime has been committed." Lassiter v. City of Bremerton, 556 F.3d 1049, 1053 (9th Cir. 2009).

Probable cause suffices for a custodial arrest so long as arresting officers had probable cause for any criminal offense, regardless of their stated reason for the arrest. Torres v. City of Los Angeles, 548 F.3d 1197, 1206 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Devenpeck v. Alford, 534 U.S. 146, 153-55 (2004)); see also Holmes v. Village of Hoffman Estate, 511 F.3d 673, 682 (7th Cir. 2007) ("probable cause to believe that a person has committed any crime will preclude a false arrest claim, even if the person was arrested on additional or different charges for which there was no probable cause"); Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 2006) (". . . a claim for false arrest turns only on whether probable cause existed to arrest a defendant, and that it is not relevant whether probable cause existed with respect to each individual charge, or indeed, any charge actually invoked by the arresting officer at time of arrest."). In Devenpeck v. Alford, the Supreme Court established that the probable cause inquiry is not based upon the offense invoked by the arresting officer, but upon the facts known to the arresting officer at the time of the arrest. In other words, the probable cause inquiry is an objective, rather than a subjective, one. See Devenpeck, 534 U.S. 146, 153; Tatum v. City and County of San Francisco, 441 F.3d 1090, 1094 (9th Cir. 2006) (". . . if the facts known to the officer at the time are sufficient to create probable cause, the arrest is lawful, regardless of the officer's subjective reasons for the arrest"). However, probable cause must exist under a specific criminal statute. Torres, 548 F.3d at 1206 (emphasis added).

Campbell maintains that she did not strike, slap, or punch Mortensen, and at most, inadvertently touched him while trying to leave the hospital room. (Campbell Decl., ¶ 9). However, the mere existence of a factual dispute is not enough to defeat summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 247-48. While the Court takes Campbell's testimony as true, the dispute over whether she hit Mortensen is simply not material to the claim because sufficient probable cause for arrest existed independently of those facts. See Torres, 548 F.3d at 1206. That Mortensen invoked the crime of battery on a police officer at the time of arrest does not defeat a finding of probable cause, so long as the facts known to him constitute sufficient probable cause existed that she committed another crime. See Devenpeck, 534 U.S. at 153.

In this case, Mortensen was told by a member of the KMC ER staff that Campbell hit him.*fn1 (Mortensen Aff., ¶ 14). Mortensen also heard Campbell screaming profanities at staff members, saw her physically struggle with staff members over closing the door, and witnessed her combative behavior. (Mortensen Aff., ¶¶ 13, 15, 17). Taken together, these facts constitute sufficient probable cause for the crime of battery, I.C. § 18-903, or disturbing the peace, I.C. § 18-6409 (the eventual offense to which Campbell pled guilty).

Campbell does not provide conflicting testimony about her interaction with ER staff members, her behavior that evening, or what the ER staff member told Mortensen. In fact, her testimony describes a conflict with an ER staff member where she "pushed" his hands away from her, "choice words" being said to police officers, and her screaming at Mortensen. (Campbell Dep., p. 51; Decl., ¶¶ 5-6, 8). Nor does Campbell point to any evidence that Mortensen knew she was being treated for a panic attack or that he could have considered her behavior a result of the attack. Campbell has not directed the Court's attention to any evidence on the record to dispute a finding of probable cause for battery or disturbing the peace.

Under these circumstances, the Court finds that a prudent person in the officer's position could reasonably believe that Campbell had committed a crime. See Lassiter, 556 F.3d at 1053. Therefore, ...

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