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Ashland disputes forced catheter lawsuit

Courts

The city of Ashland claims that a woman’s lawsuit surrounding a forced catheterization in 2019 is filled with false, irrelevant and “scandalous” information, but the city provided few specifics.

Lise Ann Behringer of Ashland filed a civil rights suit against the city in October alleging that Ashland police exceeded the scope of their search warrant when they forced a urine sample following an Oct. 19, 2019, impaired-driving arrest in downtown Ashland.

The unauthorized procedure allegedly left Behringer with a urinary tract infection and a medical bill of more than $1,100 for the procedure she didn’t authorize.

“This is rape! This is rape!” Behringer claims to have shouted as medical staff at Providence Medford Medical Center forced the catheter into her urethra, according to the lawsuit filed Oct. 18 in U.S. District Court in Medford and an Oregonian/OregonLive story about the case.

According to a response filed Tuesday by lawyer Thomas Armosino, who represents defendants including the city, Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara and Officer Justin McCreadie, “these defendants cannot truthfully respond to such allegations” without an evidence discovery process including depositions.

Armosino claims Behringer tries to “editorialize” information about the circumstances leading up to the forced urine sample.

“Therefore, except as specifically admitted herein, Ashland defendants deny each and every other allegation of ‘fact’ contained in (Behringer’s) complaint, including plaintiff’s attempt to editorialize the historical background leading to this incident,” Armosino said.

Among the legal defenses outlined in the response were that the city, its police chief and offers are entitled qualified immunity, claims that the police actions were “a valid exercise of authority as a law enforcement agency,” that Behringer’s conduct caused or exacerbated the harm she endured, and that the harm she alleges to have occurred was caused by “criminal conduct.”

The bulk of the city’s five-page response, however, surrounds nearly a quarter of the 135 paragraphs in Behringer’s lawsuit filed by lawyers Mary Sofia of Portland and Joy Bertrand of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Armosino seeks to strike 33 of the 135 paragraphs in Behringer’s lawsuit claiming “the contents of such paragraphs are wholly irrelevant, inadmissible, impertinent, scandalous, impermissible, prejudicial and superfluous.”

Those paragraphs the city seeks to strike include quotes from a 2017 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Ellis vs. City of San Diego stating that “forceful use of a catheter is a ‘gross personal indignity’ far exceeding that involved in a simple blood test,” claims that Behringer would have been willing to submit a urine sample had she been able to do so without being in the presence of a male officer, and claims that Behringer sustained a urinary tract infection from the procedure.

The sixth paragraph of Behringer’s lawsuit demands an injunction ordering the city and Providence to immediately cease the practice of forcing urine samples, along with compensation for Behringer’s injuries and punitive damages.

The city seeks to strike that sixth paragraph but also claims the lawsuit lacks “a short and plain statement of the claim” required under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Instead, the city claims, Behringer “sets forth multiple improper evidence, stories, opinions, citations to legal text, legal conclusions, false facts, immaterial facts and/or irrelevant facts.”

“Therefore, Ashland defendants are entitled to a dismissal of [Behringer’s] complaint for its failure to comply with FRCP,” Armosino states.

The city seeks to strike what are described as “supporting facts” in Behringer’s lawsuit, but lack direct attribution, statements such as: “Forced catheterization is painful, humiliating and deeply degrading” and “Urinary catheterization should be avoided where possible, because of the risks it creates of injury to the person.”

The city also demands attorney’s fees and any “such other relief as the court deems just and proper.”

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.