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Cardenas v. Collins

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

June 9, 2017

RICKY CARDENAS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL COLLINS, LLOYD GARCIA, LENNY QUINTANA, and CHRISTOPHER MEDINA, in their individual capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Quintana and Medina's Motion for Summary Judgment (Motion for Summary Judgment), filed January 15, 2016, in which Defendants Lenny Quintana and Christopher Medina (EMT Defendants) request dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims against them and seek an award of costs. (Doc. 22). Plaintiff filed a response on February 8, 2016, and EMT Defendants filed a reply on March 14, 2016. (Docs. 25 and 26). Having considered the Motion for Summary Judgment and the accompanying briefing, the Court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment in part, and denies EMT Defendants' request for an award of costs.

         A. Background

         1. The Complaint for Civil Rights Violations and Damages (Doc. 1-1) (Complaint)

         This is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights lawsuit. The Complaint arises from a 911 medical emergency call to which EMT Defendants responded as did Taos Police Department officers, Defendants Michael Collins and Lloyd Garcia (TPD Defendants). The 911 call ultimately resulted in EMT Defendants transporting Plaintiff by ambulance, against his will, to a hospital where Plaintiff contends his blood was drawn, without his consent, for drug testing. (Doc. 1-1) at ¶¶ 9, 10, 14, 18, and 19. TPD Defendants did not charge Plaintiff with any crimes. Id. at ¶ 21.

         Pertinent to this Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff brings Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment unlawful seizure claims against EMT Defendants in Count I of the Complaint. In Count III, Plaintiff brings Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment unlawful search claims against EMT Defendants for the blood draw at the hospital. EMT Defendants now move for summary judgment on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment unlawful seizure and search claims, which would dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims against EMT Defendants.

         2. Facts Viewed in the Light Most Favorable to Plaintiff

         At about 3:00 p.m. on September 3, 2012, Plaintiff became upset and began crying while he was working at his restaurant. (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 2. Plaintiff “went outside alone, and sat down behind the restaurant to collect” himself. Id. at ¶ 3. He did not lose consciousness and “remained coherent and alert throughout the incident ….”[1] Id. at ¶ 4.

         Nonetheless, at about the same time, TPD received an emergency call wherein the caller stated that a 62 year old male was “IN A DIABETIC STATE” and was “GOING IN AND OUT OF CONSCIOUSNESS.” (Doc. 25-1). When EMT Defendants and their ambulance arrived at the restaurant, a few people had come out of the restaurant to “check on” Plaintiff and “try to calm” him down. (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 6. No one from the restaurant held Plaintiff down nor did Plaintiff touch any of them.[2] Id.

         Upon arriving at the restaurant, EMT Defendants each tightly grabbed Plaintiff's arms in an attempt to assess Plaintiff's vital signs.[3] Id. at ¶ 7; (Doc. 22-1) at ¶ 7; (Doc. 22-2) at ¶ 7. Plaintiff repeatedly asked EMT Defendants to let go, but they refused to do so. (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 7. Plaintiff explained to EMT Defendants that he was “upset” about his son, who was in jail and facing a murder charge. Id. at ¶ 8. Plaintiff further stated that he needed to go back to work. Id.

         EMT Defendants continued to hold Plaintiff and stated that they needed to take Plaintiff to the hospital. Id. at ¶ 9. EMT Defendants finally let go of Plaintiff after he pretended he was going to bite them. Id. While speaking to EMT Defendants, TPD Defendants arrived. Id. at ¶ 10. One of the TPD Defendants accused Plaintiff of being on drugs[4] and threatened Plaintiff with jail if he lied about taking drugs.[5] Id.

         To get Defendants to leave, Plaintiff allowed EMT Defendants to check his vital signs and take a blood glucose level test, which was normal.[6] Id. at ¶ 11; (Doc. 22-1) at ¶ 15. After EMT Defendants examined Plaintiff, he began to walk back to his restaurant. (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 12. As he was walking, one of the TPD Defendants grabbed Plaintiff and stated that Plaintiff “would have to be tested for drugs.” Id. After Plaintiff refused to be tested, one of the TPD Defendants forced Plaintiff into the ambulance[7] and onto a gurney. (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff's sister, Betty Cox, arrived at the scene when Plaintiff was already in the ambulance. (Doc. 25-4) at ¶ 4. Cox climbed into the ambulance through the passenger-side door and saw that Plaintiff was face-down on a gurney. Id. at ¶ 5. When Plaintiff attempted to get up from the gurney, a TPD Defendant “slammed” Plaintiff back onto the gurney with his knee on Plaintiff's back and jerked Plaintiff's right arm up to handcuff him.[8] Id. at ¶ 6; (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 12. This action caused sprains and strains of Plaintiff's right shoulder and upper arm. (Doc. 25-8). Cox told Defendants, repeatedly, to leave Plaintiff alone, that Plaintiff did not want to go to the hospital, and that she would care for him, but Defendants ignored her. (Doc. 25-4) at ¶ 7.

         EMT Defendants then drove Plaintiff to the hospital against Plaintiff's will. (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 13. During the ambulance ride, Plaintiff was handcuffed to the gurney and strapped face down onto the gurney making it difficult for him to breathe. Id. at ¶¶ 13 and 16. Plaintiff stated to EMT Defendants that he was not going to pay for the ambulance and medical expenses, which he incurred against his will. Id. at ¶ 15. He did not threaten to harm himself or others during the entire incident.[9] Id. at ¶ 14.

         Once at the hospital, Plaintiff was seated in a chair and TPD Defendants handcuffed Plaintiff to a bed. Id. at ¶ 17. After one of the TPD Defendants spoke with hospital staff, a nurse drew Plaintiff's blood without his consent. Id. at ¶ 18. EMT Defendants did not draw Plaintiff's blood at the hospital nor did they assist in doing so. (Doc. 22-1) at ¶ 14; (Doc. 22-2) at ¶ 14. Plaintiff was subsequently released from the hospital about an hour later. (Doc. 25-2) at ¶ 19.

         B. Discussion

         EMT Defendants argue first that they are entitled to qualified immunity for the Fourth Amendment unlawful seizure and search claims. EMT Defendants further argue that they are immune from suit on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims under the community caretaker doctrine. Should the Court grant the Motion for Summary Judgment, EMT Defendants seek an award of costs. Plaintiff opposes the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         1. Fourth Amendment Unlawful Search and Seizure ...


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