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RUPPEL v. RAMSEYER

January 19, 1999

PATRICIA RUPPEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRUCE RAMSEYER, VAN CLAYTON TEDRICK, JOHN PETERSON, M.D., AND COVENANT MEDICAL CENTER OF CHAMPAIGN/URBANA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCUSKEY, District Judge.

ORDER

On March 16, 1998, Plaintiff, Patricia Ruppel, filed a 24-count Complaint (# 1) against Defendants: Bruce Ramseyer, a police officer employed by the City of Champaign; Van Clayton Tedrick, a registered nurse employed by Covenant Medical Center; John Peterson, M.D., an emergency room physician at Covenant Medical Center; and Covenant Medical Center of Champaign/Urbana. On July 1, 1998, Defendant Ramseyer filed a Motion to Dismiss (# 5). On July 2, 1998, Defendants Tedrick, Peterson and Covenant Medical Center filed their Motion to Dismiss (# 8). A Report and Recommendation was filed by the Magistrate Judge in the above cause on October 14, 1998. The Magistrate Judge recommended that Defendants' Motions to Dismiss be denied in part and the proceedings stayed with respect to the determination of probable cause. On October 27, 1998, Defendants Tedrick, Peterson and Covenant Medical Center filed an Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

A district court must review de novo the recommendations of a Magistrate Judge to which either party timely objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Lexington Ins. Co. v. Rugg & Knopp, Inc., 1 F. Supp.2d 937, 938 (E.D.Wis. 1998), aff'd. 165 F.3d 1087, 1999 WL 13425 (7th Cir. 1999). In addition, the district court may review any other aspect of a recommendation as it sees fit (Lexington Ins. Co., 1 F. Supp.2d at 938), and may make a de novo determination even when no objection was made (Delgado v. Bowen, 782 F.2d 79, 82 (7th Cir. 1986)). This is because, under the statute, the district court always retains the power to make the final decision. Delgado, 782 F.2d at 82. Accordingly, even though Defendant Ramseyer did not file an objection to the Report and Recommendation, this court has reviewed all aspects of the Report and Recommendation. This court now adopts the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation in part and rejects it in part.

FACTS

The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's complaint. On March 15, 1997, Plaintiff was involved in a traffic accident in Champaign, Illinois. Plaintiff's vehicle hit "a vehicle that had stalled, restarted and began movement, and then stalled again" at an intersection at a time when the stoplight was green for Plaintiff's vehicle. After the accident, Plaintiff insisted that she sustained no injuries. However, she was persuaded to go by ambulance to Covenant Medical Center. She arrived at the emergency room at approximately 9:00 p.m. She declined treatment, but agents and employees of the Medical Center refused to let Plaintiff leave and placed a security guard outside of the treatment room. Defendant Ramseyer arrived at the emergency room between 9:10 and 9:20 p.m. He was informed that Plaintiff had declined treatment and was seeking to leave the Medical Center. Ramseyer then placed Plaintiff under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). According to Plaintiff's complaint, Ramseyer did not have probable cause to arrest Plaintiff.

Ramseyer advised Plaintiff that he was demanding that she undergo a blood test to determine her blood alcohol level. According to Plaintiff's complaint, Ramseyer also informed her that she had a right to refuse such testing subject to the automatic suspension of her driver's license. Plaintiff refused the testing. Ramseyer then ordered Dr. Peterson to draw Plaintiff's blood for testing. Dr. Peterson ordered Tedrick to draw Plaintiff's blood. The blood was drawn at approximately 10:20 p.m. Plaintiff alleged that Dr. Peterson and Tedrick "repeatedly grabbed the Plaintiff's arm" and drew blood from her against her will. Plaintiff was released from the Medical Center at about 10:35 p.m.

Following a jury trial, Plaintiff was found not guilty of the offense of DUI. However, she was found guilty of the offense of driving with a blood alcohol concentration greater than .10.

Based upon these facts, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Ramseyer was liable for: unlawful seizure for arresting her without probable cause under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); unlawful search for the involuntary withdrawal of her blood under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II); unlawful search for the involuntary withdrawal of her blood in violation of the Illinois Constitution (Count III); unlawful seizure for arresting her without probable cause in violation of the Illinois Constitution (Count IV); ordering that her blood be drawn in violation of her substantive due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count V); a violation of her right to privacy under the Illinois Constitution (Count VI); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VII); and false imprisonment/arrest (Count VIII).

Plaintiff also alleged eight counts against Dr. Peterson, to wit: breach of fiduciary duty (Count IX); unlawful search under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count X); unlawful seizure under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count XI); unlawful search in violation of the Illinois Constitution (Count XII); unlawful seizure in violation of the Illinois Constitution (Count XIII); false imprisonment/arrest (Count XIV); battery (Count XV); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count XVI).

In addition, Plaintiff alleged seven counts against Van Clayton Tedrick, the nurse. She alleged: battery (Count XVII); breach of fiduciary duty (Count XVIII); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count XIX); unlawful seizure under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count XX); unlawful search under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count XXI); unlawful seizure in violation of the Illinois Constitution (Count XXII); and unlawful search in violation of the Illinois Constitution (Count XXIII). Finally, Plaintiff alleged that Covenant Medical Center was liable for false arrest and imprisonment (Count XXIV).

Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss all 24 counts of Plaintiff's complaint.

ANALYSIS

I. BACKGROUND

In considering a Motion to Dismiss, all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint are taken as true, with the facts viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Dismissal is proper only when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). In this case, the factual basis for all of Plaintiff's claims is that she was unlawfully detained at the Medical Center and forced to undergo a blood test against her will.

In Schmerber v. State of California, 384 U.S. 757, 86 S.Ct. 1826, 16 L.Ed.2d 908 (1966), the United States Supreme Court addressed a claim that the State had breached the Fourth Amendment's protection of the "right of the people to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures" when it compelled an individual suspected of drunken driving to undergo a blood test. In Schmerber, as in this case, the individual was arrested at a hospital after being involved in an automobile accident. Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 758, 86 S.Ct. 1826. Also, in Schmerber, as in this case, a police officer at the hospital directed a physician to take a blood sample over the individual's objection. Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 758-59, 86 S.Ct. 1826. The Court in Schmerber found that a blood test is a "search" under the Fourth Amendment. Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 767, 86 S.Ct. 1826. However, it held that the search was not unreasonable and did not violate the Fourth Amendment because the police officers had probable cause to believe the individual was driving under the influence of alcohol and because there was no time to seek out a magistrate and secure a warrant as the percentage of alcohol in the blood begins to diminish shortly after drinking stops. Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 768-72, 86 S.Ct. 1826. In finding the blood test reasonable, the Court noted that blood tests are "minor intrusions into an individual's body." Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 772, 86 S.Ct. 1826. The Court stated that such "tests are a commonplace in these days of periodic physical examinations and experience with them teaches that the quantity of blood extracted is minimal, and that for most people the procedure involves virtually no risk, trauma, or pain." Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 771, 86 S.Ct. 1826. The Court also noted that the "test was performed in a reasonable manner" as it was taken "in a hospital environment according to accepted medical practices." Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 771, 86 S.Ct. 1826.

Schmerber "recognized society's judgment that blood tests do not constitute an unduly extensive imposition on an individual's personal privacy and bodily integrity" (Winston v. Lee, 470 U.S. 753, 762, 105 S.Ct. 1611, 84 L.Ed.2d 662 (1985)) and "clearly allows a State to force a person suspected of driving while intoxicated to submit to a blood alcohol test" (South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553, 559, 103 S.Ct. 916, 74 L.Ed.2d 748 (1983)). A simple blood-alcohol test is so safe, painless and commonplace that a state can legitimately compel the suspect, against his will, to accede to the test. Neville, 459 U.S. at 563, 103 S.Ct. 916. Therefore, if a police officer has probable cause to arrest for DUI, he can proceed without use of excessive force in procuring a blood sample even in the face of a suspect's refusal. Field v. Hall, 1995 WL 360744, at *6 (D.Del. 1995). This court notes that "grabbing" an arm is consistent with "forcing" or "compelling" a person to submit to a blood test and does not constitute excessive force.

Since Schmerber, "it is clear that a compulsory test does not violate any constitutional rights of an individual merely because he objected to such tests." People v. Todd, 59 Ill.2d 534, 322 N.E.2d 447, 453 (1975) (emphasis added); see also People v. Yant, 210 Ill. App.3d 961, 155 Ill.Dec. 783, 570 N.E.2d 3, 4 (1991) (a blood test taken without consent does not violate any constitutional right of the donor).

Based upon this well established case law, it is clear that Plaintiff has no cause of action based upon the fact that she was forced to submit to a blood test against her will unless she can prove there was no probable cause to believe she was driving under the influence of alcohol. Accordingly, it is clear to this court that, so long as probable cause existed, the taking of Plaintiff's blood did not violate any of her ...


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