Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., A-1-CA-36474

Docket NºNo. A-1-CA-36474
Citation495 P.3d 620
Case DateJune 04, 2020
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

495 P.3d 620

Timothy YOUNG, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
GILA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER and Bryant Beesley, M.D., Defendants-Appellees.

No. A-1-CA-36474

Court of Appeals of New Mexico.

Filing Date: June 4, 2020
Conditional Cross-Petition Dismissed, July 26, 2021, No.
S-1-SC-38369


Kennedy, Kennedy & Ives, Joseph P. Kennedy, Shannon L. Kennedy, Adam C. Flores, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellant

Serpe, Jones, Andrews, Callender & Bell, PLLC, M. Randall Jones, Ryan L. Clement, Houston, TX, for Appellee Gila Regional Medical Center

Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb, P.A., Edward R. Ricco, Rick Beitler, Melanie B. Stambaugh, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellee Bryant Beesley, M.D.

B. ZAMORA, Judge.

{1} Plaintiff Timothy Young sued Defendants Gila Regional Medical Center (GRMC), Dr. Bryant Beesley, and others not party to this appeal for negligence, battery, and civil rights violations stemming from a digital rectal examination and x-ray conducted by Beesley while Plaintiff was in the custody of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department. Prior to trial, the district court dismissed all claims against GRMC on summary judgment and dismissed Plaintiff's civil rights claims against Beesley on grounds of qualified immunity. Following a trial on the merits for Plaintiff's remaining battery and negligence claims, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Beesley and the district court entered judgment for all Defendants.

{2} On appeal, Plaintiff contends the district court erred in: (1) granting Beesley's motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds and denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on his civil rights claims; (2) denying Plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law against Beesley on Plaintiff's battery claim; (3) dismissing Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages against Beesley; and (4) granting GRMC's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to provide timely notice under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (the TCA), NMSA 1978, §§ 41-4-1 to -27 (1976, as amended through 2020). We requested supplemental briefing from Plaintiff

495 P.3d 624

and Beesley on the issue of qualified immunity. We reverse the district court's orders granting summary judgment in favor of Beesley and denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on his civil rights claims, but otherwise affirm. We remand this matter to the district court for further proceedings to determine whether qualified immunity bars Plaintiff's civil rights claims against Beesley and whether Plaintiff is entitled to judgment on said claims.

BACKGROUND

{3} On October 13, 2012, at approximately 9:42 p.m., Plaintiff and a companion were traveling in Plaintiff's vehicle in Lordsburg, New Mexico, when they were pulled over by Deputy Javier Peru of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department for failure to signal. According to the officer, Plaintiff's demeanor and actions during the stop gave rise to a suspicion that he was transporting contraband. Deputy Peru requested and received consent from Plaintiff to search his vehicle, which he did with the assistance of two other officers. The search revealed no evidence of a controlled substance, but the officers determined that Plaintiff's "inconsistent stories and nervous behavior" warranted summoning a K-9 and handler, Lieutenant Patrick Green, to conduct a more thorough search of the vehicle. That search also failed to uncover any drugs inside the vehicle, as did a more thorough frisk of Plaintiff. However, according to Lieutenant Green, the canine alerted to the odor of a controlled substance on the driver's seat and the center console. Based on this alert, Lieutenant Green decided to seek a search warrant for Plaintiff and his vehicle. The officers took Plaintiff into custody and drove him to the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office to await issuance of the warrant.

{4} Lieutenant Green applied for the warrant, supporting his application with an affidavit that stated his belief that Plaintiff had drugs "in or on his person." However, Lieutenant Green only "request[ed] that the [c]ourt find[ ] that probable cause exists to authorize a detailed search of [Plaintiff's] vehicle." At approximately 1:45 a.m., the district court issued a warrant authorizing a search of "the person or property described in the Affidavit."1 Nothing in the warrant explicitly authorized an invasive search of Plaintiff's body or an x-ray examination.

{5} Following issuance of the warrant, Lieutenant Green and Deputy Peru transported Plaintiff in handcuffs to GRMC in Silver City. The officers spoke with the intake nurse at the hospital and indicated that they had a warrant and they suspected Plaintiff had either ingested or hidden drugs in his rectum. Plaintiff was taken to an examination room, where Beesley, who was the emergency physician on duty, performed a basic physical examination and took a medical history. Beesley testified that, prior to entering the examination room or speaking with Plaintiff, he reviewed the information in the triage notes in Plaintiff's medical record and knew that Plaintiff was there for a search based on a concern that he had impacted controlled substances in his rectum. He also spoke with law enforcement officers before speaking with Plaintiff, but the parties’ accounts of the substance of these conversations vary, as discussed in more detail below. Beesley testified that he "skimmed through" the search warrant but that he did not review it in any detail, determining only that the name on the warrant matched Plaintiff's name, and that he did not believe he read the affidavit. Plaintiff told Beesley that he had not inserted drugs into his rectum, but this did not dissuade Beesley from conducting the examination. Beesley testified his decision to perform the examination was based on his desire to assist law enforcement and his concern that, if Plaintiff had ingested or impacted drugs in his rectum, Plaintiff could suffer a medical emergency if the drugs entered his system.

{6} Beesley instructed Plaintiff to adjust his position on the examination table to assist in the performance of the digital rectal examination and Plaintiff complied. Plaintiff asked Beesley, "Why we got to do this?" and Beesley replied, "Because I have a warrant."

495 P.3d 625

Plaintiff responded, "Let's just get it over with," and Beesley performed the rectal examination. When this examination failed to identify the presence of drugs, Beesley ordered an abdominal x-ray of Plaintiff. This examination also failed to identify the presence of drugs in Plaintiff's body. Plaintiff was later released by the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department, after having been in custody for approximately seven hours. He was not charged with any offense.

{7} Plaintiff filed a complaint against GRMC and Beesley in October 2014, alleging state law claims for battery, negligence, unfair practices, as well as claims for civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018). Prior to trial, the parties filed numerous motions, including competing motions for summary judgment. Important to this appeal, GRMC and Beesley both sought summary judgment on the basis that qualified immunity shielded them from liability for Plaintiff's civil rights claims, and both challenged Plaintiff's punitive damages claims. Plaintiff filed a competing motion for summary judgment on his civil rights claim against Beesley, alleging that the doctor deprived Plaintiff of his Fourth Amendment right to be free of an unreasonable search. GRMC also filed a motion challenging the district court's subject matter jurisdiction for Plaintiff's battery and negligence claims on the grounds that Plaintiff had failed to provide timely notice under the TCA. The district court granted GRMC's motions for summary judgment and dismissed GRMC from the litigation. The district court also found, with respect to the competing motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff's civil rights claims, that Beesley was shielded by qualified immunity; consequently, the court granted Beesley's motion for summary judgment and denied Plaintiff's motion. All remaining claims, with the exception of Plaintiff's battery and ordinary negligence claims against Beesley, were either dismissed by the court or by stipulation of the parties prior to trial.

{8} Following the close of evidence, the jury found in favor of Beesley on both claims. After the district court entered final judgment, Plaintiff filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on his battery claim, which the district court denied.

DISCUSSION

I. Beesley's Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Qualified Immunity and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on His § 1983 Claim

{9} Plaintiff first argues the district court erred in granting Beesley's motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity and denying his motion for summary judgment on the civil rights claims pursuant to § 1983 (hereinafter § 1983 claim). Plaintiff contends the district court correctly determined that the search warrant did not authorize a digital rectal examination or abdominal x-ray, but that it engaged in a flawed analysis of qualified immunity when it granted Beesley's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff further argues the district court erred when it denied his own motion for summary...

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4 practice notes
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr. , 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega , 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d ......
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega, 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d 15......
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega, 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d 15......
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega, 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d 15......
4 cases
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr. , 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega , 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d ......
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega, 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d 15......
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega, 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d 15......
  • Hernandez v. Parker, A-1-CA-38635
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 1, 2022
    ...Torts § 18 appropriately defines the elements for civil battery and assault. See Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., 2021-NMCA-042, ¶¶ 28-29, 495 P.3d 620 (citing the Restatement (Second) of Torts to discuss civil battery defenses); State v. Ortega, 1992-NMCA-003, ¶ 12, 113 N.M. 437, 827 P.2d 15......

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