United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
SANDRA ANDERSON, Personal Representative of the Estate of BETTY NEWELL; and SANDRA ANDERSON, Plaintiffs,
BRYAN CURTRIGHT; JOHN DOES 1-6, as individuals; and COLUMBIA COUNTY, an Oregon municipality, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
V. ACOSTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Sandra Anderson, on her own behalf and as Personal
Representative of the Estate of Betty Newell
(“Plaintiff”), filed this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (“Section 1983”). Anderson alleges
defendants Columbia County (the “County”), Bryan
Cutright (“Cutright”), and John Does 1-6 violated
the right to be free from unlawful seizure and confinement
protected by the Fourth Amendment when Cutright, his
supervisor, and officers of the Columbia County Sheriffs'
Office (the “Officers'), arrested her and seized
her mother, Betty Newell (“Newell”), without
probable cause. Plaintiff also asserts a wrongful death claim
under Or. Rev. Stat. 30.020 for Newell's death caused by
the trauma of witnessing Anderson's arrest and her own
involuntary transport to a hospital. Cutright and John Doe 1,
identified as Cutright's supervisor (collectively
“Defendants”), move to dismiss the complaint for
failure to state a viable claim against them.
court finds Plaintiff adequately alleged a causal
relationship between Cutright, the alleged unconstitutional
conduct, and Newell's death, but no such relationship
with regard to John Doe 1. Accordingly, Defendants'
motion to dismiss is be denied with regard to Cutright and
granted with regard to John Doe 1.
2016, Plaintiff retired from her position as a medical
assistant to provide full-time in-home care for Newell.
(Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 10, 13.) Plaintiff's
sister-in-law, Nettie Anderson (“Nettie”), a
licensed caregiver, assisted Plaintiff in caring for Newell.
(Compl., ¶ 20.) Plaintiff communicated and cooperated
with Anna Crawford, the hospice worker assigned to Newell
(“Crawford”), to determine the appropriate care
for Newell, specifically with regard to Newell's
worsening bedsores. (Compl. ¶ 14.)
February 2017, a substitute hospice worker observed
Newell's advanced bed sores and reported Plaintiff to the
Oregon Department of Human Services (the
“Department”) for suspected abuse and neglect.
(Compl. ¶¶ 14, 16.) On February 22, 2017, Cutright,
a Department employee and former law enforcement officer with
the Columbia County Sheriffs' Office, visited
Newell's residence to follow up on the report. (Compl.
¶¶ 6, 17.) Cutright observed Newell's bedsores,
briefly reviewed Newell's medical chart, and began taking
pictures of Newell. (Compl. ¶ 18.) When Cutright denied
Plaintiff's request for copies of the pictures, Plaintiff
felt the visit was “becoming adversarial” and
asked Cutright to leave. (Compl. ¶ 18.) After a somewhat
heated exchange with Plaintiff's husband about
Cutright's service in the United States Marine Corp,
Cutright left the Newell residence threatening to “have
[Nettie's] license” and stating “I'm
coming back with the authorities.” (Compl. ¶¶
contacted Crawford, and accused Plaintiff and Nettie of elder
abuse based on Newell's bedsores. (Compl. ¶ 22.)
Cutright agreed to “postpone any further action”
after Crawford advised Cutright of a treatment plan agreed
upon by Plaintiff and Crawford. (Compl. ¶¶ 22, 23.)
However, Cutright returned to the Newell residence on
February 23, 2017, with his supervisor “Susan, ”
and the Officers. The Officers immediately placed Plaintiff,
her husband, and Nettie in handcuffs and interrogated them
“in a threatening and intimidating manner.”
(Compl. ¶ 24.) The Officer eventually arrested Plaintiff
and Nettie, and transported them to Columbia County Jail.
(Compl. ¶ 28.) Newell witnessed the Officers'
actions, was visibly upset, and did not speak or eat again.
(Compl. ¶ 29.)
of the Officers held Newell while “Susan” took
pictures of Newell's bedsores. (Compl. ¶ 27.) The
Officers then removed Newell from her residence and
transported her to St. Johns Medical Center by ambulance.
(Compl. ¶ 30.) Newell was subsequently transferred to a
hospice facility, where she passed away on February 28, 2017.
(Compl. ¶ 30.) As of the filing of this lawsuit, neither
Plaintiff nor Nettie had been prosecuted for elder abuse or
neglect. (Compl. ¶ 33.)
claims Cutright, John Doe 1 (presumed to be “Susan,
”) and John Does 2-6 (identified only as the
“Officers”), arrested and seized her without
probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Plaintiff also alleges the conduct of Cutright and John Does
1-6, specifically “the unconstitutional arrests of
Plaintiff [and Nettie], and the unlawful seizure of 
Newell's person against her will” which “were
unjustified and unsupported by law” were the cause of
Newell's death. Defendants move to dismiss the claims
against them arguing they did not personally participate in
the seizure or arrest of Plaintiff, Nettie, or Newell, and
can not be held liable for such actions.
well-pleaded complaint requires only “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (2019). A federal
claimant is not required to detail all factual allegations;
however, the complaint must provide “more than labels
and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements
of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations
omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise
a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Id. While the court must assume all facts alleged in
a complaint are true and view them in a light most favorable
to the nonmoving party, it need not accept as true any legal
conclusion set forth in the complaint. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Additionally, a
plaintiff must set forth a plausible claim for relief - a
possible claim for relief will not do. “In sum, for a
complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory
‘factual content,' and reasonable inferences from
that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim
entitling the plaintiff to relief.” Moss v. U.S.
Secret Serv ice, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678); Sheppard v.
David Evans and Assoc., No. 11-35164, 2012 WL 3983909,
at *4 (9th Cir. Sept. 12, 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679) (“The Supreme Court has emphasized that
analyzing the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations is
a ‘context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common