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Rhodes v. County of Marion

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

October 3, 2018

TJ RHODES, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF MARION, et al., Defendants


          Robert E. Jones District Judge.

         Plaintiff TJ Rhodes, acting pro se, brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Marion County Fire District #1 (MCFD) and its employees Terry Riley, Jakob Beutler, and Aaron Iwaniw (collectively "the MCFD defendants") and the Marion County Sheriffs Office (MCSO) and its employees Sheriff Jason Myers and Deputy Jonathon Gadberry (collectively "the MCSO defendants"), Rhodes alleges defendants violated his rights by assaulting and refusing him medical treatment when they responded to a 911 call from his girlfriend reporting he was experiencing chest pain. The matter is before the court on defendants' motions for summary judgment [# 44, # 53]. For the following reasons, the motions are granted as to all defendants.


         The following factual background is undisputed. On December 23, 2014, Rhodes and his girlfriend Cynthia Brown visited Izzy's restaurant. When they left, plaintiff experienced chest pain and he told Ms. Brown he thought he was having a stroke or a heart attack. On numerous previous occasions, Rhodes had experienced similar symptoms and had been transported by ambulance for emergency treatment. Ms. Brown called 911 and reported that Rhodes was experiencing chest pain and that she and Rhodes were intoxicated.

         MCFD personnel, including defendants Beutler and Iwaniw, responded to the call. Ms. Brown led the MCFD responders into Rhodes's residence and again told them that Rhodes was intoxicated and experiencing chest pains, The MCFD responders found Rhodes unresponsive in a fetal position with his shirt pulled over his head. When they attempted to obtain information from Rhodes, he exhibited signs of impaired decision making capacity and alcohol intoxication and appeared to be in urgent need of medical care.

         Rhodes did not cooperate when the MCFD responders tried to obtain information from him about his condition. He leaped to his feet, yelled angrily at them and shoved defendant Iwaniw. Rhodes then charged at them, swinging his fists. He struck defendant Beutler several times in the head. Defendants Beutler and Iwaniw restrained Rhodes on the floor to protect themselves, but Rhodes bit Beutler on the forearm and spat in their faces. Defendant Beutler pushed Rhodes's head away to avoid further spitting. While restrained, Rhodes remained agitated, yelling threats and racial expletives at the MCFD responders. Rhodes punched Beutler in the side of the head. Ms. Brown then reported that Rhodes had hit and threatened her before the MCFD responders arrived and that she feared further violence against her if Rhodes were released.

         Meanwhile, defendant Deputy Gadberry arrived to help the MCFD responders control Rhodes so that he could be treated. Defendant Gadberry knew that the MCFD responders had been dispatched to assist an intoxicated male who was experiencing chest pains. Gadberry smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from Rhodes. Rhodes was agitated and continued to scream curses and threats at the MCFD responders hying to assist him. Defendant Gadberry placed Rhodes in handcuffs and told him he was being detained while Gadberry investigated the incident.

         While defendant Gadberry escorted Rhodes to a patrol vehicle, Rhodes tried to pull away several times and yelled profanities, racial expletives and threats at Gadberry. Defendants Beutler and Iwaniw attempted to complete their medical assessment while Rhodes was sitting in the patrol vehicle, but Rhodes continued to be uncooperative and scream at them. When defendant Iwaniw attempted to place an EKG lead on Rhodes's chest, Rhodes tried to bite Iwaniw's hand. Defendant Gadbeny then grasped Rhodes's chin and pushed it up to prevent him from biting Iwaniw. Ultimately, Rhodes prevented Iwaniw and Beutler from properly assessing his possible medical issues. Defendant Gadberry then transported Rhodes to the Marion County Jail.

         Based on the events described, Rhodes was charged with Assault 3, Aggravated Harassment, and Attempted Assault 3. On June 7, 2015, Rhodes entered a guilty plea to Assault 3 and Aggravated Harassment, both Class C felonies. In doing so, Rhodes confessed that, on December 23, 2014, he had caused physical injury to a medical service provider acting in the course of his duties and had propelled saliva on a public safety officer acting in his official capacity. Based on the guilty plea, Rhodes was convicted and is now serving a sentence of incarceration at Santiam Correctional Institution, LEGAL STANDARD

         The district court should grant summary judgment if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). If the moving party shows that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and designate facts showing an issue for trial. Celotex Corp, v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A scintilla of evidence, or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative, does not present a genuine issue of material fact. United Steelworkers of America v. Phelps Dodge, 865 F.2d 1539, 1542 (9th Cir. 1989). Reasonable doubts as to the existence of a material factual issue are resolved against the moving party and inferences drawn from facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. T. W. Elec, Serv. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors, 809 F.2d 626, 630-31 (9th Cir. 1987).


         In his first amended complaint, Rhodes brought eight claims alleging violations of his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as claims of negligence and assault and battery under state law. Of these, three claims relate to all defendants, one relates only to the MCFD defendants, and four relate only to the MCSO defendants.

         I. MCFD defendants

         Rhodes alleges the MCFD defendants violated his constitutional rights by subjecting him to excessive force, false imprisonment, cruel and unusual punishment, and failure to provide appropriate medical care. These claims are barred by the doctrine of Heck v. Humphrey,512 U.S. 477 (1994). Rhodes entered a plea petition in which he confessed the factual basis that supported his conviction of Assault 3 and Aggravated Harassment. The aggressive assaultive behavior that formed the basis of Rhodes's felony convictions is inextricably intertwined with the MCFD defendants' defensive actions and futile attempts to provide medical care. These are the actions that Rhodes alleges violated his rights and form the basis of his claims under Section 1983. Accordingly, ...

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