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Okpoti v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 27, 2017




         Plaintiff Nathan Okpoti filed this lawsuit against defendants Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“LVMPD”), Officer John Brandon, and the City of Las Vegas (“City”). Okpoti alleges that he suffered a stroke while driving and that Officer Brandon pulled him over and then arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence when instead Brandon should have provided him medical assistance. He further alleges Officer Brandon took him to the Las Vegas Detention Center (“LVDC”), where he remained in custody for several days and did not receive medical attention.

         I grant the defendants' motions for summary judgment. Okpoti's false arrest claims fail because Brandon had probable cause to arrest him for driving under the influence. Moreover, Okpoti's Fourteenth Amendment claims fail because Okpoti has not shown that Brandon or a City employee were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs or that additional training would have resulted in Okpoti being referred for medical care.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 24, 2013, Officer Brandon stopped Okpoti for suspicion of driving under the influence after Okpoti was seen swerving and hitting the curb. ECF No. 81-1 at 2, 57-58. When Brandon asked Okpoti to get out of the car, Okpoti had trouble opening the door. Id. at 59, 93. Okpoti's eyes were watery and glassy; his speech was confused and incoherent; he was wobbling, falling, and swaying; and his clothing was unkempt. Id. at 93. Okpoti incorrectly identified the street he was on and did not know the date. Id. Okpoti denied he was under a doctor's care or that he had any physical or mental handicaps. Id. Okpoti also denied having consumed any alcoholic beverages. Id. Okpoti told Brandon that he had a headache and had taken over-the-counter pain medicine. ECF Nos. 80-3 at 21; 81-2 at 6.

         Brandon could not smell alcohol on Okpoti but Okpoti failed three field sobriety tests. ECF No. 81-1 at 59-60, 94-96. Brandon concluded Okpoti was under the influence of some substance but Brandon did not know what it was. Id. at 60. Brandon called to the scene Officer Michael Laythorpe, a drug recognition evaluator, for a second opinion. Id. at 60, 65; ECF No. 81-2 at 40.

         Laythorpe also did not smell alcohol and he did not observe Okpoti acting in a bizarre or agitated fashion, although Okpoti's speech was slurred. ECF No. 81-2 at 49. Okpoti's eyes were red and watery but Laythorpe saw no abnormality between the pupils. Id. Laythorpe conducted a field sobriety test and then told Brandon that he believed Okpoti was under the influence of either cannabis or spice. Id. at 49, 55. Neither Brandon nor Laythorpe thought Okpoti was experiencing a medical episode. Id. at 51; ECF No. 81-1 at 63. Laythorpe did not see any droopiness in Okpoti's face, eyelids, or lips. ECF No. 81-2 at 51-52. Brandon arrested Okpoti for driving under the influence of a controlled substance and transported him to LVDC. ECF Nos. 81-1 at 67-68; 80-1 at 40; 81-2 at 62.

         During the intake process at LVDC, a registered nurse conducts a “receiving screen, ” which involves obtaining a medical history, taking vital signs, and conducting a mental health evaluation. ECF No. 80-2 at 3. According to the information recorded during that process, Okpoti complained of a migraine and stated he took Tylenol the day before. ECF No. 80-2 at 6. Okpoti denied using drugs or alcohol. Id. The registered nurse who conducted the receiving screen noted nothing abnormal about Okpoti's appearance, behavior, state of consciousness, or movement. Id. According to the intake mental health assessment, Okpoti was oriented and did not display inappropriate affect, mood, speech, or behavior. Id. at 11. Okpoti was placed in the general population and not referred for medical treatment or further evaluation. Id. at 8.

         Although Okpoti signed the receiving screen record, Okpoti denies he said he had a migraine or that he took Tylenol. ECF Nos. 81-2 at 29; 80-2 at 9. Okpoti states he told jail staff he had a headache and that he thought “something was wrong” but he “could not articulate the details of [his] condition.” ECF No. 80-3 at 12.

         Okpoti appeared before a judge on January 25, 2013 and the judge found probable cause for the charge. ECF No. 80-4 at 2. Okpoti was released from LVDC on January 28, 2013 after no complaint was filed in the criminal case. ECF Nos. 80-1 at 111-13; 80-4 at 2; 81-2 at 77.

         Okpoti did not seek or receive medical treatment following his release from custody until his mother took him to a hospital on February 28, 2013. ECF No.80-3 at 25-26. As it turns out, Okpoti was not under the influence of a controlled substance. Rather, he was experiencing a medical episode caused by his previously undiagnosed condition of cavernous angiomas, which involves abnormal bleeding of vessels in the brain. ECF Nos. 81-1 at 77, 84.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, discovery responses, and affidavits demonstrate “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts demonstrating there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 2000). I view the evidence and make ...

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