Mueller v. City of Boise

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Family Law
  • Date Filed: 09-10-2012
  • Case #: 11-35351
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Trott for the Court, Circuit Judges Wallace and N.R. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

A police officer may remove a child from parental care without a court order in situations where the child is in “imminent danger,” and that danger is determined from an objectively reasonable standpoint, which may be based on the opinion of a physician.

The Mueller's daughter, Taige, was taken into state custody after a report of possible neglect. Ms. Mueller brought Taige to an emergency room, where a doctor determined a medical procedure was necessary to save her. Mrs. Mueller opposed the procedure, so she was removed from the operating room by a police officer. The Muellers brought claims against the doctor, the police officers, the hospital, and the City of Boise. A jury ruled against the Muellers. On appeal, the Court held the police officer exercised his objectively reasonable judgment when he determined, based on the doctor's opinion, that Taige was in “imminent danger.” This was an emergency situation where a hearing regarding termination of parental rights was not required. As a result, the officer is entitled to qualified immunity for the claims against him. The Court also found Ms. Mueller's Fourth Amendment rights were not violated when the officer led her to a privacy room during her daughter's procedure. Her absence was necessary to maintain order in the emergency room and to ensure the procedure was not interrupted. The Mueller's also argued a doctor's expert testimony at trial is invalid when based on “clinical instinct.” The Court determined the district court did not err or abuse its discretion by admitting the expert testimony, and it is up to the jury to weigh testimony. The Court ruled there is not a valid §1983 claim against the hospital because it did not become a state actor merely by complying with state law and reporting possible child neglect. The Court also dismissed claims by the Muellers regarding false reporting by the doctor, battery, inadequate jury instructions, denial of a motion for new trial, failure to train officers by the City of Boise, grant of a protective order and class certification. AFFIRMED.

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