O'Doan v. Sanford, No. 19-15623

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBRESS, Circuit Judge
Citation991 F.3d 1027
Parties James O'DOAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Joshua SANFORD, Reno Police Officer; Cade Leavitt, Reno Police Officer; City of Reno, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date19 March 2021
Docket NumberNo. 19-15623

991 F.3d 1027

James O'DOAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Joshua SANFORD, Reno Police Officer; Cade Leavitt, Reno Police Officer; City of Reno, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 19-15623

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Filed March 19, 2021
Submitted May 15, 2020* San Francisco, California


OPINION

BRESS, Circuit Judge:

991 F.3d 1032

James O'Doan was arrested for resisting a public officer and indecent exposure after officers observed O'Doan engage in conduct that violated Nevada law. O'Doan spent one night in custody and was released on bail the next morning. The charges against him were later dropped. O'Doan then filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Reno police officers Joshua Sanford and Cade Leavitt, alleging they used excessive force, lacked probable cause to arrest him, and prepared deliberately fabricated police reports. O'Doan also brought related claims against the City of Reno under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). See 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.

We hold that O'Doan’s § 1983 claims fail because the police officers were entitled to qualified immunity. We also hold that the district court properly granted summary judgment to the City on O'Doan’s related ADA claims. We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.

I

In reviewing the grant of summary judgment to the defendants, we recite the facts in the light most favorable to O'Doan. Garcia v. County of Merced , 639 F.3d 1206, 1208 (9th Cir. 2011).

At 6:47 p.m. on the evening of July 15, 2016, O'Doan’s girlfriend, April O'Fria, called 911 to report that O'Doan had experienced an epileptic seizure in the shower, was trying to break windows, and had fled their home naked. The 911 operator informed the emergency dispatcher that "[p]atient is postictal and violent at this time," to which the dispatcher responded: "All right. I'll let them know." Meanwhile, on another 911 call soon after, O'Fria told the operator that O'Doan was having a "very bad epileptic seizure." The operator responded, "I will let them know." O'Fria frantically reported that O'Doan was "trying to break out the window" and was "hurting himself very, very bad," before O'Fria was apparently disconnected from the call after approximately two and a half minutes.

On another 911 call less than a minute later, O'Fria further explained that O'Doan "is epileptic and he is having a grand mal seizure" and that police officers had previously "attacked him for not listening." O'Fria asked the 911 operator to "[p]lease make sure they know he's epileptic." The operator told O'Fria, "So I can't guarantee that the officers, the officers have to do whatever they have to do to keep themselves and everybody else safe, okay? But I did let them know that he's having a grand mal seizure, okay?" O'Fria then confirmed that "the police have him." The operator again stated that she will "let the officers know everything."

While these calls were taking place, firefighters had arrived on the scene first and promptly initiated a "Code 3," which means "there's something violent happening" and that police were needed "immediately" for "an emergency situation." Firefighters had found O'Fria and O'Doan on a busy Reno street "struggling" and "grappling with each other." O'Doan ran down the street and past the emergency personnel. O'Doan looked at the firefighters when they tried to talk to him but ignored their requests for him to stop. O'Fria, who had been chasing after O'Doan, told one of the firefighters she believed O'Doan had a seizure and that it had happened before.

In the meantime, police dispatch notified Reno Police Officers Sanford and Leavitt of the Code 3 request. There is no suggestion that the police officers were on O'Fria’s 911 calls or the communications between the 911 operator and emergency

991 F.3d 1033

dispatch, a portion of which took place after police were already engaged. En route to the scene, Officer Sanford saw an EMS advisory on the computer in the police car showing that the 911 caller had reported "that the subj[ect] is in a grand mal seizure [and] last time [officers] attacked him due to him being in a seizure." While Sanford knew what a seizure was, he did not know the meaning of "grand mal seizure." For his part, Officer Leavitt (who was still a police trainee at the time) testified he did not remember reading the EMS advisory on the car computer and was not aware, upon arriving at the scene, that O'Doan had allegedly suffered a seizure.

Sanford and Leavitt pulled up to find that firefighters had "staged" their vehicle away from O'Doan and O'Fria, which is done when there is a law enforcement issue that first requires police intervention. At this point, O'Doan had passed the staged firefighters and was moving quickly down the sidewalk naked.

The officers tried to catch up with O'Doan while identifying themselves as police and instructing O'Doan to stop. O'Doan did not comply. According to Sanford, in response to the officers’ commands to stop, O'Doan turned, faced the officers, and "ball[ed] up both of his fists and kind of br[ought] his arms, his forearms, up, not at a full 90-degree angle, but he br[ought] them up slightly." Officer Leavitt similarly described how O'Doan "stopped and turn[ed] towards me with his fist clenched and presenting body language as if he was going to attack myself and Officer Sanford." As Leavitt later testified, O'Doan "presented towards me like he would have come towards me right there."

Leavitt tried to deploy his taser on O'Doan but the taser malfunctioned. O'Doan then turned away and moved off quickly. At that point, Sanford approached O'Doan and used a "reverse reap throw" to bring him to the ground. This maneuver essentially involves tripping the subject from behind to throw him off balance and then "guiding" him to the ground with both hands.

After Sanford brought O'Doan down, officers engaged in a "major struggle" with O'Doan, who was "combative." O'Doan thrashed around, "scuffl[ing]" with the officers, "kicking and attempting to get up off the ground" and continuing to resist attempts to restrain him. The officers repeatedly told O'Doan to stop resisting, but O'Doan did not obey. Firefighters and a third officer who had since arrived on the scene had to help Sanford and Leavitt restrain O'Doan. After his arms were handcuffed behind his back, O'Doan continued to try to kick people, so officers put leg restraints on him. O'Doan received some abrasions and lacerations to various parts of his body during the episode.

Once he was restrained, EMS administered a sedative to O'Doan, who began to relax. O'Doan was then loaded onto a gurney and into the ambulance. Firefighter David Blondfield informed EMS that O'Fria had told him on the scene that O'Doan had a history of seizures, but Blondfield did not recall EMS's response. Blondfield did not recall passing on this information to the police officers. Sanford testified that while still on the scene he spoke with his supervisor, Sergeant Browitt, which is required under department policy when a use of force causes claimed or visible injuries. Sanford "informed [Browitt] that they're claiming that [O'Doan] was suffering from a seizure."

The emergency personnel at the scene, who had training in responding to persons having seizures, did not believe O'Doan had suffered a seizure or that he was in a "postictal" (post-seizure) state. Blondfield testified that, based on what he observed,

991 F.3d 1034

"a seizure patient was not what came to mind." "[M]y first thought was not this is a seizure. My first thought was there's something else." Instead, O'Doan "reminded me of somebody high on meth or something like that."

Firefighter Trevor Alt similarly testified that emergency personnel "believed [O'Doan] was on drugs." O'Doan’s behavior "was consistent with someone that's on a drug binge," "more consistent with methamphetamine, maybe ecstasy, hallucinogens." Blondfield and Alt testified that someone who emerges from a seizure is "lethargic," which is not how O'Doan presented. As Alt testified, "[y]ou can't walk that way in a postictal state."

O'Doan was transported to the hospital to treat his lacerations, and, as Leavitt wrote in his police report, any "other possible health issues." Leavitt testified that because it was "uncommon to have an individual naked running down the street," officers in that type of situation want to ensure persons like O'Doan are "not on any foreign substances to make them mentally not sound there, to make them act in this behavior that isn't common."

Sanford and Leavitt followed O'Doan to the hospital. O'Doan was admitted to the emergency room at 7:40 p.m. that evening. O'Doan has no memory of these events but acknowledged that if he had been left to wander the streets, he could have posed a danger to himself or others.

Once at the emergency room, Dr. Daryl Di Rocco treated O'Doan. Di Rocco's deposition testimony was based entirely on medical records because he did not have any independent recollection of O'Doan’s time at the hospital. The records indicated that O'Doan came in with a "seizure or a possible seizure," and reference O'Doan’s "history of seizures," while noting that "[t]he story is not clear." Di Rocco diagnosed O'Doan as having suffered from a seizure, abrasions, and tobacco use,...

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30 practice notes
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 30 Julio 2021
    ..."only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles." O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021). The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an "extreme circumstances" or "obvio......
  • Parsons v. Velasquez, CIV 20-0074 JB/KK
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    ..."only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles." O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021).The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an "extreme circumstances" or "obviou......
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    ..."only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles." O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021). The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an "extreme circumstances" or "obvio......
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    • 17 Noviembre 2021
    ...“only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles.” O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021). The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an “extreme circumstances” or “obvio......
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30 cases
  • Parsons v. Velasquez, No. CIV 20-0074 JB/KK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 30 Julio 2021
    ..."only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles." O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021). The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an "extreme circumstances" or "obvio......
  • Parsons v. Velasquez, CIV 20-0074 JB/KK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 30 Julio 2021
    ..."only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles." O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021).The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an "extreme circumstances" or "obviou......
  • Ortiz v. New Mexico, CIV 18-0028 JB/LF
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 22 Julio 2021
    ..."only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles." O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021). The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an "extreme circumstances" or "obvio......
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    ...“only highlights the level of blatantly unconstitutional conduct necessary to satisfy the obviousness principles.” O'Doan v. Sanford, 991 F.3d 1027, 1044 (9th Cir. 2021). The other Courts of Appeals have, however, characterized Taylor as only reaffirming an “extreme circumstances” or “obvio......
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