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Sawyer v. Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 3, 2019



          Stacie F. Beckerman, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on motions to dismiss filed by Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center (“Legacy Emanuel”), James Coughlin, M.D. (“Dr. Coughlin”), and Sunshine Crone (“Crone”) (collectively, the “Legacy Defendants”); and the Oregon Department of Human Services (“DHS”) and Carolina Caballero (“Caballero”) (collectively, the “State Defendants”).[1] This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and all parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants both motions to dismiss.


         On September 19, 2016, Sawyer went into labor on a flight from Florida to Portland, Oregon. (Compl. ¶ 8.) She was transported to Legacy Emanuel upon arriving in Portland. (Compl. ¶ 10.)

         During her initial examination, Sawyer informed the hospital staff that she did not “want any technology [used] during her pregnancy”; she was not interested in having a nurse “do a heartbeat radar for the baby and an ultrasound”; she wanted the nurse to use a “stethoscope to check the baby's heart rate”; she wanted to “stay in a squatting position for a lotus birth and allow the baby to come out on its own” in the event “the baby was breech”; she was not interested in a vitamin K shot, an eye ointment, or vaccinations for the baby; and she wanted to wait for Arnold to arrive from southern Oregon before “deciding whether or not to allow an ultrasound.” (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12.) After Sawyer's initial examination was completed, the hospital accommodated Sawyer's request to be “allowed to sit in a large tub while having her contractions.” (Compl. ¶ 13.)

         In the early morning hours of September 20, 2016, Sawyer agreed to allow her doctor to perform an ultrasound. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Based on the results of the ultrasound, the doctor concluded that “the baby was breech and started saying ‘C section, C section, C section.'” (Compl. ¶ 16.) Sawyer responded that she did not want to have a Caesarean section (“C-section”) and asked if anyone “had any experience delivering a breech baby vaginally and was told ‘no.'” (Compl. ¶ 17.) “At that moment, before an epidural could be administered, the baby came out with only its head and left arm still in the birth canal, at which time the staff removed the squat bar [that had been provided] and [Sawyer] was forcibly moved to her back and against her will.” (Compl. ¶ 18.)

         During the final stages of delivery, Plaintiffs heard a “snap” and the attending physician confirmed that the baby's arm broke when he “reached up and pulled on the baby.” (Compl. ¶ 19.) Plaintiffs requested a “delayed cord clamping, ” but their physician “immediately clamped and cut the cord and the baby was whisked away” before Sawyer could find out the baby's gender. (Compl. ¶ 20.) In the recovery room, Sawyer was “asked to sign forms regarding declining the eye ointment and vitamin K shot.” (Compl. ¶ 21.)

         Later that same morning, Crone, a social worker employed by Legacy Emanuel, interviewed Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 23.) Based on her interview, Crone determined that Plaintiffs needed a car seat, but it was otherwise “safe to discharge the baby into” Plaintiffs' care. (Compl. ¶ 23.)

         A few hours later, Dr. Coughlin, a pediatrician employed by Legacy Emanuel, visited Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 24.) Dr. Coughlin asked why Plaintiffs “did not allow an ultrasound” and “demand[ed]” that Sawyer “immediately submit to a blood test, ” even though Plaintiffs believed that state law allowed the test to “be performed a[s] late as 10 days after birth.” (Compl. ¶ 24.) Dr. Coughlin also questioned Plaintiffs “about their decision not to vaccinate the child.” (Compl. ¶ 25.) Ultimately, Dr. Coughlin rejected Sawyer's request to revisit the blood test matter the following day since she was tired and hungry, and Dr. Coughlin informed Plaintiffs that Sawyer could either submit to a blood test or “he would be calling social services.” (Compl. ¶¶ 26-28.)

         Shortly thereafter, a DHS employee (Caballero) and five “armed security guards” entered Plaintiffs' hospital room and without any explanation took custody of their baby (“I.S.”). (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 28.) Once I.S. was removed from Plaintiffs' room, Caballero instructed Legacy Emanuel's hospital staff to proceed with “regular treatment, ” and the staff responded by administering a “Vitamin K shot, eye ointment, a hepatitis B vaccine, and immunoglobulin.” (Compl. ¶ 29.) DHS also had I.S. placed in a separate room and only allowed Sawyer “to see her under supervision while she was feeding her, for no more than 30 minutes at a time.” (Compl. ¶ 30.)

         On September 21, 2016, Sawyer learned that a court hearing was set for the next day, arrangements were being made for her to appear by telephone because she had not been discharged from the hospital, and DHS had taken custody of I.S. based on a report of “medical neglect.” (Compl. ¶ 31.)

         On September 22, 2016, Sawyer and I.S. were discharged from the hospital, DHS placed I.S. in a foster home, and “the court continued the temporary protective custody and continued the matter until September 26, 2016.” (Compl. ¶¶ 32-33.) At the September 26, 2016 hearing, the court “maintained temporary custody with [DHS] but reunited physical custody of the baby with” Sawyer. (Compl. ¶¶ 33-34.)

         On November 1, 2016, a judge presided over an adjudicatory hearing and the petition filed against Plaintiff “was dismissed and full custody of [I.S.] was returned to” Plaintiffs.[3](Compl. ¶ 35.)



         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Mashiri v. Epstein Grinnell & Howell, 845 F.3d 984, 988 (9th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678)).

         II. ...

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