United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT HALL'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Deborah Hall, M.D.'s ("Dr. Hall") motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 52). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On July 12, 2013, Plaintiffs Brandon Roe and Teri Roe ("the Roes") filed a civil rights and personal injury suit against various defendants, including Dr. Hall, in Thurston County Superior Court. Dkt. 1 at 10. On October 18, 2013, the case was removed to this Court. Id. at 1-2.
On June 26, 2014, the Roes filed an amended complaint. Dkt. 46. The Roes allege that Dr. Hall negligently investigated child abuse allegations and conspired with Department of Social and Health Services ("DSHS") employees and law enforcement to interfere with the Roes' civil rights. Id. at 15-16.
On September 17, 2014, Dr. Hall moved for summary judgment. Dkt. 52. On October 3, 2014, the Roes responded. Dkt. 53. On October 10, 2014, Dr. Hall replied. Dkt. 55.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
In 2010, a family friend noticed that the Roes' three-year-old daughter, NR, had bruising on her face. Dkt. 25, Declaration of Deborah K. Hall ("Hall Dec."), Exs. 1, 2. When the friend asked NR what happened, NR said that "mommy did it." Hall Dec., Ex. 2. NR later said that "the dog did it." Id.
The friend reported NR's bruising to Child Protective Services ("CPS"). Hall Dec., Ex. 1. A CPS social worker discovered more bruising on NR's lower back. Hall Dec., Exs. 1, 2.
The Roes denied causing NR's injuries. Hall Dec., Ex. 1. According to the Roes, NR injured her face by tripping over their new dog. Id. Although the Roes had given NR a bath the day before, the Roes did not notice the bruising on NR's lower back. Id. The Roes did not know how NR obtained the bruising on her lower back. Id. On previous occasions, the Roes had expressed concern that NR was clumsy and fell easily to NR's doctors. Hall Dec. ¶ 14.
NR was removed from the Roes' home and placed in protective custody. Hall Dec., Ex. 1. DSHS and Cowlitz County law enforcement initiated an investigation into possible child abuse. Id. Teri Roe was later charged with third-degree assault. Dkt. 46 at 9.
As part of the DSHS investigation, social worker Stephanie Frost ("Frost") asked Dr. Hall to review NR's records and provide an expert opinion "in regards to this child physical abuse case." Hall Dec., Ex. 1. Dr. Hall has twenty years of experience as a child abuse consultant. Hall Dec. ¶ 5. Dr. Hall's consultation in this case occurred in her capacity as a child abuse consultant. Id. ¶¶ 8-9.
After reviewing NR's medical records and photos, Dr. Hall sent Frost a letter that contained her opinions about NR's bruising. Hall Dec., Ex. 2. In the letter, Dr. Hall noted that NR's test results for bleeding disorder and clumsiness were normal. Id. Dr. Hall also noted that photos of NR showed a bruise across the bridge of her nose, a scratch below her left eye, bruises above her right elbow, and bruises across her lower back. Id. NR had bruises on the pinna of her right ear as well. Id. According to Dr. Hall, there was a pattern on the left face consistent with a slap mark. Id. Dr. Hall concluded that "[t]he findings on this case are all very concerning for physical abuse. The bruising of the ears in this pattern is nearly diagnostic of abuse." Id.
In addition to the letter, Dr. Hall shared her opinions about NR's bruising during her deposition in the dependency proceedings. Hall Dec. ¶¶ 11-12. At Dr. Hall's deposition, the Roes' attorney showed Dr. Hall a photo of a bruise on NR's left ear. Hall Dec., Ex. 3 at 56-61. The photo was taken the day before Dr. Hall's deposition. Id. at 58. In light of the new photo, Dr. Hall admitted that she would be interested in more information about NR's balance and fall history. Id. at 60. Towards the end of the deposition, Dr. Hall stated that she would change her report to say "[t]he bruising of the ears in this pattern is concerning for abuse." Id. at 72. Dr. Hall ...