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A.M. v. Physicians' Medical Center, P.C.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 10, 2018

A.M., a minor, by and through her Conservator, Tim Nay; and R.M., a minor, by and through his conservator, Beagle and Associates of Oregon, Inc., Plaintiffs,
v.
Physicians' Medical Center, P.C.; Brent W. Heimuller, M.D.; and United States of America, Defendants.

          Jane Paulson, Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys Of Attorneys for Plaintiff A.M.

          Erin K. Olson, Law Office of Erin Olson, PC, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff R.M.

          Connie Elkins McKelvey and Joanna C. Robinson, Lindsay Hart, LLP, Of Attorneys for Defendants Physicians' Medical Center, P.C. and Brent W. Heimuller, M.D.

          Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Susanne Luse, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Of Attorneys for Defendant United States of America.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL H. SIMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs A.M. and R.M. have filed a motion to determine the sufficiency of Defendants' responses to Plaintiffs' requests for admission. Plaintiffs challenge the sufficiency of the responses served by (1) Defendants Physicians' Medical Center, P.C. (“PMC”) and Brent W. Heimuller, M.D. (“Dr. Heimuller”) and (2) Defendant United States of America. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion is denied.

         STANDARDS

         Under Rule 36(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a] party may serve on any other party a written request to admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to: (A) facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either, and (B) the genuineness of any described documents.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(1). The scope of Rule 26(b)(1) includes “discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         When served with a request for admissions, a party must answer or object to the request. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(3). The party may not treat the request as “a mere procedural exercise requiring minimally acceptable conduct” and must provide “full and efficient discovery, not evasion and word play.” Marchand v. Mercy Med. Ctr., 22 F.3d 933, 936 (9th Cir. 1994). If the party cannot admit or deny a matter, its answer must “state in detail” why. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(4). If the party objects to a request, its answer must state the grounds for the objection, and a “party must not object solely on the ground that the request presents a genuine issue for trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(5) (emphasis added). “The requesting party may move to determine the sufficiency of an answer or objection. Unless the court finds an objection justified, it must order that an answer be served.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(6).

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff A.M. is a nine-year-old girl, born in August 2009. Plaintiff R.M. is an eight-year-old boy, born in December 2010. In January 2011, when A.M. was almost one and one-half years old and R.M. was about one month old, the Oregon Department of Human Services (“ODHS”) removed Plaintiffs from their parental custody and placed them in foster care. In May 2012, ODHS placed Plaintiffs in the foster home of John and Danielle Yates. In August 2013, John and Danielle Yates became the durable guardians for A.M. and R.M. While in the Yates' home, A.M. and R.M. allegedly were subjected to starvation, withholding of food as discipline, withholding of medical care, isolation, physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and disparagement of family of origin. In December 2014, ODHS removed Plaintiffs from the Yates' home and placed them in the care of their paternal aunt, J.M. Based on their condition, J.M. promptly took Plaintiffs to Randall Children's Hospital, where they were found to have many markers of chronic starvation and malnutrition. At some point thereafter, the State of Oregon prosecuted John and Danielle Yates for child abuse.

         Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Inc. (“YVFWC”) is a Washington nonprofit corporation, doing business through a network of community health centers operating services and programs in Washington and Oregon. Among the services offered are nutrition services for caregivers and expecting mothers, including growth tracking to ensure children are growing at a healthy rate, nutrition education and advice for caregivers, and assistance finding healthcare and other community services. YVFWC is a recipient of federal funding from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (“WIC”) and operates several WIC clinics including the Newberg WIC Clinic in Newberg, Oregon. YVFWC and its employees are qualified for protection under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) under section 224 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, as amended by the Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act of 1992 and 1995. A.M. was seen at the Newberg WIC Clinic at numerous times between October 15, 2009 and August 14, 2014. R.M. was seen at the Newberg WIC Clinic at numerous times between March 14, 2011 and August 14, 2014.

         Under the FTCA, 28 U.S.C. § 1346 et seq., Plaintiffs assert a claim of negligence against Defendant United States based on the actions of the YVFWC, a federally-deemed entity. Plaintiffs allege that YVFWC was negligent in failing to: (a) coordinate nutrition care for Plaintiffs with their health care providers; (b) follow-up on the high-risk level identified for Plaintiffs due to their low weight, small stature, and slow growth; (c) identify, implement, and follow through with a plan for future intervention that addressed the risks to Plaintiffs; (d) make a mandatory report of child abuse or neglect, as required under Oregon law and ...


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