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Otis v. Demarasse

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 2, 2018

Jill Otis, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Kayla J. Demarasse, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued June 7, 2017

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 1:16-cv-00285-WCG - William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge.

          Before Ripple, Rovner, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Ripple, Circuit Judge.

         Jill Otis brought this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Kayla Demarasse, a Water-ford, Wisconsin police officer, ignored her obvious need for medical care after arresting her on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The district court dismissed her complaint. Ms. Otis, now represented by counsel, appeals the dismissal. She contends that her complaint states a claim for relief and that the district court erred when it concluded that she had pleaded herself out of court.

         Ms. Otis's submissions in the district court fairly allege that Officer Demarasse knew about her need for medical attention and responded in an objectively unreasonable manner. The district court erred in concluding that Ms. Otis had pleaded herself out of court by attaching the police report, which contained a version of the facts different from those in the complaint itself. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment as to Officer Demarasse and remand for further proceedings against the officer.



         The initial version of Ms. Otis's complaint is brief. It alleges that on September 17, 2014, the Waterford police stopped her on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, lied about the stop in written reports, and treated her in a manner "unjustified" by her "health and civil rights."[1] Ms. Otis named as defendants the "Waterford Police Dept." and "Racine County Human Services."[2] The district court screened the complaint and dismissed it on the ground that it failed to state a claim.[3] The court reasoned that the complaint lacked factual detail about the traffic stop, including the identity of the arresting officer.[4] Moreover, the court believed that the Waterford Police Department was not "a suable entity" and that Ms. Otis's complaint did not allege a viable claim against the Racine County Department of Human Services.[5] The court gave Ms. Otis thirty days to amend her complaint to cure these perceived defects.

         Ms. Otis's amended complaint added Officer Demarasse as a defendant. It repeated her allegation that the written police reports include false statements, and she recounted the events surrounding her arrest. Officer Demarasse stopped her at 1:20 a.m., she recalled, while she was driving with her son, then eleven, to her mother's house in Illinois. Officer Demarasse noticed the boy in the back seat, asked Ms. Otis where she was going, and then ordered her out of the car. Ms. Otis alerted the officer that she was "very sick and bleeding" heavily and asked to be taken to a hospital.[6] Officer Demarasse refused and proceeded to administer a field sobriety test, which, Ms. Otis alleges, she had difficulty completing because blood was "running down" her clothes and legs.[7]Ms. Otis felt she was "about to pass out" and, for the second time, asked to be taken to a hospital.[8] Once again, Officer Demarasse refused. Instead, she arrested Ms. Otis, cuffed her hands, and drove her to the police station. By then Officer Demarasse had been joined by a second police officer, who took the boy to a Department of Human Services caseworker.

         At the police station, the amended complaint continues, Ms. Otis was subjected to additional testing to determine whether she was under the influence of drugs. A "drug recognition expert" examined Ms. Otis's eyes, nose, and mouth, while a medical technician also drew a blood sample.[9] Officer Demarasse then drove Ms. Otis to the Racine County jail, where she was booked and held for another twelve hours. At no time during this encounter, according to the amended complaint, was Ms. Otis taken to a hospital. Her blood sample was negative for alcohol and controlled substances. Authorities eventually dropped the charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

         The district court also screened this amended complaint. This time the court authorized Ms. Otis to proceed against Officer Demarasse on a claim that the officer had denied her due process by deliberately ignoring a serious medical need. The right to due process, the court reasoned, protects "arrested persons and pretrial detainees" from deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.[10] The court acknowledged its obligation at the pleading stage to credit Ms. Otis's allegation that she was not taken to a hospital after her arrest, but it encouraged Officer Demarasse to move for summary judgment if she could produce contrary evidence on this question. The court also dismissed as defendants the police department and the Department of Human Services. The court reasoned that the correct defendants would be the city and county, and neither was named in Ms. Otis's submissions.

         At that point the litigation should have proceeded, but Ms. Otis inexplicably sent the district court another supplement to her complaint plus more than a hundred pages of attachments, mostly police reports and medical records. In a brief, handwritten transmittal letter, she explained her wish "to submit[] the paperwork to add the City and County" as defendants "because they play a great part in this case."[11] Her submission is titled as a "Second Amended" complaint, and that document identifies the defendants as "Waterford City and County."[12] Officer Demarasse's name is omitted.

         One of the attachments is Officer Demarasse's police report, recounting that she stopped Ms. Otis on a rural highway in Racine County after watching her car veer off the pavement while traveling 25 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone. By Officer Demarasse's account, Ms. Otis acted erratically during the encounter and her pupils were constricted. Although the officer did not smell alcohol or any controlled substance, she asked Ms. Otis to perform a field sobriety test. When Ms. Otis climbed out of her car, Officer Demarasse did notice blood on her shirt near her buttocks, prompting the officer to ask about the blood. According to the officer's report, Ms. Otis attributed the blood to having her period. Officer Demarasse then asked, her report continues, why Ms. Otis was not wearing a pad or tampon, and Ms. Otis simply replied, "Because."[13] Ms. Otis then began the field sobriety test but refused to complete it, citing a back injury. Suspecting that Ms. Otis had taken illegal drugs or prescription medication, Officer Demarasse arrested her and put her in the back seat of a squad car (after placing two gauze pads on the seat).

         Officer Demarasse's report contradicts Ms. Otis's allegations concerning medical treatment. First, it recounts driving Ms. Otis to Burlington Memorial Hospital "for OWI processing."[14] At the hospital, the report says, Officer Demarasse issued Ms. Otis a citation for driving while intoxicated and obtained her agreement to submit to a blood test. A medical technician drew two vials of blood, and another officer conducted "drug recognition exams."[15] During this time, according to the police report, Ms. Otis was given a chance to clean herself and exchange her blood-soaked pants for scrub pants supplied by the hospital. Because Ms. Otis had no one available to give her a ride home, Officer Demarasse transported her to the county jail at 5:00 a.m. for a "12-hour OWI hold."[16]

         Ms. Otis later requested from Burlington Memorial Hospital any record of her being treated the day of her arrest, and the hospital did not have any relevant record. Records from a different hospital establish that, two days after her arrest, Ms. Otis was admitted and assigned to intensive care. She was diagnosed with "[a]cute blood loss anemia secondary to dysfunctional uterine bleeding, " which required giving her a blood transfusion.[17]

         After receiving Ms. Otis's unsolicited third submission, the district court dismissed her action and struck the filing. Instead of acknowledging this submission as a supplement to what Ms. Otis had filed previously, the court characterized it as a standalone "second amended complaint" that superseded the initial version as amended.[18] The court then reasoned that, because Officer Demarasse is not explicitly named as a defendant in the caption, Ms. Otis had dropped the officer as a defendant. The court further concluded that Ms. Otis's complaint did not state a claim against Waterford or Racine County. The court noted that a municipality may be liable under § 1983 if a constitutional violation arises from an official policy or custom. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Yet, the district court explained, Ms. Otis did not attribute her arrest or its aftermath-including the temporary placement of her son with the Department of Human Services-to a city or county policy or custom. In any event, the court asserted, Ms. Otis's allegations are "no longer plausible" in light of the documents attached to her latest submission.[19] Ms. Otis did not deny any of the information in the attachments, the court said, and those attachments confirm that she "had her blood drawn, was examined by hospital staff, and was given clean scrubs to wear."[20] For this reason, the court concluded, Ms. Otis cannot plausibly allege that she was not taken to the hospital after her arrest or that her civil rights were violated during the episode.



         Ms. Otis now challenges only the dismissal of her claim against Officer Demarasse. She does not contest the dismissal of her Monell claims against either Waterford or Racine County. We review de novo a dismissal at screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), and we accept allegations in a complaint as true, "viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         Before addressing the merits, we must first determine whether this appeal, which only raises challenges to the claim against Officer Demarasse, is properly before us. Officer Demarasse contends that the district court correctly determined that Ms. Otis's third submission, which contained no allegations against Officer Demarasse, superseded Ms. Otis's second submission, effectively waiving any claims against the officer. In support of this contention, Officer Demarasse notes that "the District Court's local rules do not allow parties to supplement complaints and, even if she could have supplemented her complaint under the local ...

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