United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 2, 2005.
JESSIE ADKINS now emancipated, NANCY ADKINS, by and through her Guardian, Karen Adkins and Karen Adkins, as the Administratrix of the ESTATE OF R. THOMAS ADKINS JR. a/k/a THOMAS R. ADKINS, JR. Plaintiffs,
LUZERNE COUNTY CHILDREN & YOUTH SERVICES OF LUZERNE COUNTY, CAROL GALLI, DIANE RADZWILKA, COUNTY OF LUZERNE, FRED TOLERICO, BOROUGH OF DALLAS, JACK FOWLER, STAN JEZEWSKI, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS VANASKIE, Chief Judge, District
This action concerns the alleged deprivation of constitutional
rights arising out of the compelled removal of Jesse and Nancy
Adkins from their father's home for a period of four days while
medical examinations and tests on the children were conducted.
Plaintiffs are the Estate of Dr. R. Thomas Adkins, Jr. (who
passed away during the pendency of this litigation), and his two
children, Jesse and Nancy Adkins.*fn1 There are four
categories of Defendants: (1) Luzerne County Children & Youth Services ("CYS") and two of its employees
Carol Galli and Diane Radzwilka; (2) the Borough of Dallas and
its Chief of Police, Jack Fowler; (3) Luzerne County and its
Chief Detective, Stan Jezewski; and (4) Pennsylvania State Police
Trooper Frederick Tolerico. Plaintiffs claim that the removal and
medical examination of the children without a court order
violated substantive due process and their Fourth Amendment right
to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Recovery is
sought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Each category of Defendants has separately moved for summary
judgment on all claims. Because Defendants established that they
had "reasonable and articulable evidence" justifying their
decision to remove Dr. Adkins' children from the family home and
directing the children to undergo medical examinations, summary
judgment on Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due
process claim will be granted in Defendants' favor. Because the
evidence presented supports a conclusion that the Defendants
acted as a "reasonable guardian" by ordering Dr. Adkins' children
to undergo medical examinations in order to determine whether
they were poisoned or suffering from a serious illness, summary
judgment on Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim will also be
granted in favor of Defendants.
A. Factual Background
Defendant CYS is an agency of Luzerne County and Defendants
Diane Radzwilka and Carol Galli were at all times relevant to the
events in this case employed by CYS as intake case workers. Defendant Frederick Tolerico is a Trooper with the
Pennsylvania State Police. Defendant Jack Fowler is the Chief of
Police for the Borough of Dallas. Defendant Stan Jezewski was the
Chief Detective in the Luzerne County District Attorney's Office
at the time relevant to the events in question.
Dr. Adkins was a licensed physician, and at the time in
question, was employed at both Mercy and Berwick Hospitals as an
emergency physician. (Adkins Dep. at 14-15) He is the father of
Plaintiffs Jessie and Nancy Adkins. At the time of the incident
in question, Jessie was thirteen (13) years old and Nancy was
four (4) years old. Jessie Adkins' mother was Mary Adkins, Dr.
Adkins' first wife, who died on June 17, 1990, at the age of
forty (40) of "presumed natural causes." In April of 1992 Dr.
Adkins remarried. His second wife, Delinda, was the mother of
Delinda Adkins died on January 17, 1999 at the age of thirty
(30), allegedly from "hemorrhagic interstitial pneumonitis."
However, the "Amended Postmortem Report" for Delinda Adkins,
which was completed by Dr. Hudock as part of an investigation
into the cause of her death, indicated the cause of death as
"undetermined," and the manner of death as "could not be
determined." Although the cause of Delinda Adkins' death was
listed as "undetermined," Dr. Hudock lacked any medical evidence
that even suggested that she died from anything other than the
flu. (Hudock Dep. at 16, 28.) Nonetheless, a criminal
investigation of her death was undertaken. Two months after Delinda Adkins died, on March 18, 1999, at
approximately 9:30 a.m., Dallas Borough Police Officer James
Drury received a call at the police station from a confidential
informant regarding the welfare of Dr. Adkins' children. The
confidential informant told Officer Drury that the four year-old
daughter, Nancy, had told the informant that Karen Sherman, Dr.
Adkins' girlfriend at the time,*fn2 stated to Nancy that she
and her sister would soon be going to heaven to be with their
mother. (See Victim/Witness Statement Form at 1, 4.) Officer
Drury immediately notified Chief Fowler of the information he
received from the confidential informant. Chief Fowler then
proceeded to contact Trooper Tolerico of the Pennsylvania State
Police and Detective Stan Jezewski of the Luzerne County District
Attorney's Office to inform them of the report he received from
the confidential informant. Defendants Tolerico and Jezewski had
participated in the investigation of Delinda's death.
At approximately noon on that same day, Chief Fowler, Trooper
Tolerico and Detective Jezewski personally interviewed the
confidential informant, who had a close and trusted relationship
with the Adkins' family. The law enforcement officers were
acquainted with the informant through their investigation into
Delinda's death. At that time, the confidential informant signed
a written affidavit stating:
Nancy said Karen told her that she and her sister
Jessie would be going to heaven soon to be with their
mommy. ? Nancy then started crying and said that she
knows she can only go to heaven if she dies, and she
doesn't want to die. . . . .
When Karen told Nancy that she was going to heaven
soon to be with mommy, she told her not to tell
anyone, because this is a secret.
(Victim/Witness Statement Form at 1, 4.) The confidential
informant also stated that Nancy "has been sick several times
since Delinda's death" and had run a fever of one-hundred and
four (104) degrees, a runny nose, and a terrible cough.
Furthermore, the confidential informant claimed that Dr. Adkins
had not taken Nancy to the doctor, despite repeated bouts of
sickness. (Id. at 2-3.) The confidential informant had access to
Dr. Adkins' children sufficient to establish the reliability of
her assertions as to the children's condition.
A telephone conference ensued involving former Luzerne County
District Attorney Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr.,*fn3 Michael
Dessoye, Chief of County Detectives for Luzerne County, and Stan
Jezewski. The District Attorney was aware of the investigation
into Delinda's death and the suspicions concerning the passing of
Dr. Adkins' first wife. Based on this conference a decision was
made by the District Attorney to take protective custody of Dr.
Adkins' children to assess their condition and to utilize CYS to
find an appropriate location for the children until the
proceedings could be concluded. Information relating to the
investigation of Delinda's death and information supplied by the
confidential informant led the District Attorney and the Defendants to conclude that the children were in imminent harm.
This information included: the suspicious circumstances
surrounding the untimely deaths of Mary and Delinda Adkins; the
alleged extramarital affair between Dr. Adkins and Karen Sherman;
the fact that she moved in with Dr. Adkins shortly after
Delinda's death; Dr. Adkins' prescription of numerous medications
for Delinda between August of 1998 and January of 1999, using
multiple pharmacies; the suspension of Dr. Adkins' medical
license by the state of Maryland; the flu-like symptoms
reportedly suffered by the children, similar to those suffered by
Delinda Adkins prior to her death; and Karen Sherman's statement
to Nancy Adkins that she would soon be joining her mother in
heaven. (Olszewski Dep. at 31-34, 37, 48-49, 67; Fowler Dep. at
32, 37-40; Jezewski Dep. at 20-21, 36, 54; Tolerico Dep. at 60,
140.) After the decision was made to take the children into
protective custody, District Attorney Olszewski relayed the
information to Jacquelyn Maddon, Social Services Coordinator for
CYS, and informed her that he would make arrangements for
Geisinger Medical Center to have the children examined medically.
(Maddon Dep. at 35.) Maddon then assigned Carol Galli and Diane
Radzwilka to the case. (Id. at 13-15.)
On Thursday, March 18, 1999, at approximately 5:00 p.m., Galli,
Radzwilka, Chief Fowler, Officer Drury, Trooper Tolerico, and
Jezewski arrived at Dr. Adkins' home for the purpose of taking
Dr. Adkins' children into protective custody. After consulting
with District Attorney Olszewski, Jezewski informed the parties
present that it was not necessary to obtain a search warrant in
order to take the children into protective custody. When Dr. Adkins opened the door to his home, he was advised of
the concerns regarding the health and welfare of his children and
he was further advised that it was the intention of the law
enforcement and CYS personnel to remove his children from his
home and place them in protective custody without his consent.
Dr. Adkins suggested that Defendants call the children's school
and their pediatrician, but was told that the children had to be
removed.*fn4 Diane Radzwilka and Carol Galli advised Dr.
Adkins that his children would be taken to Geisinger Medical
Center the following morning for an exam and then proceeded to
review options for the temporary placement of the children.
(Radzwilka Dep. at 36; Galli Dep. at 67-68.) After further
discussion, Dr. Adkins agreed that his children could be placed
with Samantha Spencer, a friend of Delinda Adkins, who helped out
babysitting three days per week and lived one-hundred and fifty
(150) yards from Dr. Adkins' home. Dr. Adkins also agreed to
allow the caseworkers to access the children's medical and school
records and signed a release to that effect. However, Dr. Adkins
was not presented with a written release authorizing medical
examinations of his children.
On the morning of March 19, 1999, Dr. Adkins obtained legal
representation, based on his belief that a "shelter care" hearing was going to take place
later that day.*fn5 (Adkins Dep. at 90-91, 258-59, 324.) Dr.
Adkins' attorney negotiated an agreement with CYS, that was
approved by the District Attorney, whereby his children would
remain with Samantha Spencer until Monday, March 22, 1999, while
they awaited the results of the medical examinations. Dr. Adkins
was also permitted to visit his children at Ms. Spencer's home
over the weekend. This negotiation allowed the parties to avoid a
shelter care hearing. (CYS's Sealed Exhibit "F" at 26.)
On March 19, 1999, the children were taken to Geisinger Medical
Center and examined by Dr. Cordes. He conducted a physical
examination of both children and ordered urine and blood tests.
(Cordes' Answers to Interrogatories at 30-32.) Dr. Cordes also
ordered a precious metals scan to rule out exposure to any
potential toxins. (Id. at 36-37.) The results of Dr. Cordes'
physical exam and medical tests indicated that both of Dr.
Adkins' children were in good health. (Id. at 47.) The children
were returned to Dr. Adkins on March 22, 1999.
B. Procedural History
Plaintiffs initiated this action with the filing of a Complaint
on March 16, 2001. On April 14, 2003 Defendants Borough of Dallas
and Chief of Police Jack Fowler filed a motion for summary
judgment (Dkt. Entry 90) with a brief in support of the motion
(Dkt. Entry 91). Defendants CYS, Carol Galli and Diane Radzwilka
also filed a joint motion for summary judgment (Dkt. Entry 108) on April 15, 2003. Defendants Stan
Jezewski and Luzerne County filed a motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. Entry 109) with a brief in support of the motion (Dkt.
Entry 110) on April 15, 2003. State Trooper Frederick Tolerico
filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt. Entry 112) with a brief
in support of the motion (Dkt. Entry 114) on April 15, 2003.
Plaintiffs filed a single consolidated brief in opposition to all
motions for summary judgment (Dkt Entry 123) on June 2, 2003.
Defendants CYS, Carol Galli and Diane Radzwilka filed a reply
brief to Plaintiffs' brief in opposition (Dkt. Entry 127) on June
12, 2003. Defendant Frederick Tolerico also filed a reply brief
to Plaintiffs' brief in opposition (Dkt. Entry 128) on June 19,
Dr. Adkins passed away following the submission of the summary
judgment motions. By Order entered on February 10, 2005,
substitution of parties was directed and oral argument on the
pending motions was scheduled for March 4, 2005. The Court was
later informed that an estate for Dr. Adkins had not been opened
and a guardian had not been appointed for Nancy Adkins.*fn6
Consequently, litigation of this matter was stayed pending the
appointment of persons who could authorize this litigation to
proceed on behalf of Dr. Adkins and his daughter, Nancy. By Order
entered on May 31, 2005, Karen (Sherman) Adkins was recognized as
the Executrix of the Estate of Dr. Adkins and as the guardian of
Nancy, and oral argument on the pending motions was re-scheduled.
Oral argument occurred on July 19, 2005. This matter is ripe for disposition.
Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P.
56(c). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or
non-existence might affect the outcome of the suit under the
applicable 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."
All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material
fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire
record must be examined in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Cont'l Ins. Co. v. Bodie, 682 F.2d 436, 438
(3d Cir. 1982). The moving party has the burden of showing the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and the nonmoving
party must present affirmative evidence from which a jury might
return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 256-57. Merely conclusory allegations taken from the
pleadings are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary
judgment. Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654,
657 (3d Cir. 1990). Summary judgment is to be entered "after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who
fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of
an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
A. Substantive Due Process Claim
Plaintiffs have asserted a substantive due process claim.
Specifically, Dr. Adkins claims that the removal of his children
from his home by the defendants violated his "fundamental liberty
interest in the care, custody and management of his children."
(Complaint at ¶ 34)
The Supreme Court has held that where abusive government action
is alleged, "only the most egregious official conduct can be said
to be arbitrary in the constitutional sense." County of
Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846 (1998). "To generate
liability, executive action must be so ill-conceived or malicious
that it `shocks the conscience.'" Miller v. City of
Philadelphia, 174 F.3d 368, 375 (3d Cir. 1999) (internal
citation omitted) "Mere negligence is never sufficient for
substantive due process liability." Nicini v. Morra,
212 F.3d 798, 810 (3d Cir. 2000). "Because, conduct that `shocks the
conscience' under one set of circumstances may not have the same
effect under a different set of circumstances, the standard of
culpability for a substantive due process violation can vary
depending on the situation." Rivas v. City of Passaic,
365 F.3d 181, 195 (3d Cir. 2004).
The Supreme Court has recognized a "fundamental liberty
interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management
of their child[ren]." Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753
(1982). There are, however, "cases in which a child services
bureau may be justified in removing either a child or a parent from the home, even where
later investigation proves no abuse occurred." Croft v.
Westmoreland County Children and Youth Services, 103 F.3d 1123,
1126 (3d Cir. 1997). As stated in Croft, "a state has no
interest in protecting children from their parents unless it has
some reasonable and articulable evidence giving rise to a
reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused or is in
imminent danger of abuse." Id. The test, as set forth in
Croft, is "whether the information available to the defendants
at the time would have created an objectively reasonable
suspicion of abuse justifying the degree of interference with
[parents'] rights as the child[ren's] parents." Id. Consistent
with this constitutional standard, the Pennsylvania Juvenile Act
provides that "a child may be taken into custody . . . by a law
enforcement officer or duly authorized authority of the court if
there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child is
suffering from illness or injury or is in imminent danger from
his surroundings, and that his removal is necessary." 42 PA.
CONS. STAT. § 6324(3).
In Miller v. City of Philadelphia, 174 F.3d 368, 376 (3d Cir.
1999), the court explained that the test articulated in Croft
was an application of the substantive due process "shocks the
conscience" standard. That is, the government action must be "so
ill-conceived or malicious that it `shocks the conscience.'"
Id. at 375. In the context of the removal of a child from the
parents' home, the social worker's conduct "must exceed both
negligence and deliberate indifference, and reach a level of
gross negligence or arbitrariness that indeed `shocks the
conscience.'" Id. at 375-76. The evidence presented by Defendants has established that there
were reasonable grounds to believe that Dr. Adkins' children were
in imminent danger of harm, thus justifying their compelled
removal. The investigation into the welfare of Dr. Adkins'
children began when Officer Drury received a telephone call from
a reliable informant, who expressed concern that Dr. Adkins'
children may be in danger of death or serious illness. The
informant was known to the law enforcement officers to be a close
and trusted acquaintance of Dr. Adkins and his family. Upon
receipt of the call, Officer Drury immediately contacted his
supervisor, Chief Fowler, who in turn contacted Trooper Tolerico
and Detective Jezewski because they were both assisting the
Dallas Borough Police Department with the investigation into the
"suspicious" death of Delinda Adkins. After all the parties were
contacted, the confidential informant was interviewed and
disclosed to the police that Dr. Adkins' girlfriend, Karen
Sherman, had told his four year old daughter Nancy that she and
her sister would soon be joining her mother in heaven. Karen
Sherman also told Nancy to keep this a secret. When Nancy told
the informant of Ms. Sherman's statement, Nancy began crying
because she realized that the only way to get to heaven was to
die and she told the confidential informant that she did not want
to die. The confidential informant also disclosed to the law
enforcement agents that Nancy had been suffering from flu-like
symptoms since Delinda's death, which include a temperature as
high as one-hundred and four degrees, along with a runny nose and
cough. Furthermore, the confidential informant claimed that,
despite these flu-like symptoms, Dr. Adkins had not taken Nancy to her pediatrician to have her examined and possibly
Although "[a]n anonymous tip may justify investigation . . . it
will not provided reasonable grounds for removal of a family
member absent independent, articulable criteria of reliability;
and certainly not when all evidence is to the contrary." Croft,
103 F.3d at 1126 Unlike Croft, which concerned an
uncorroborated anonymous informant, Defendants in this case
were dealing with information provided by a well known
confidential informant. Law enforcement officers knew that the
confidential informant was trusted by Dr. Adkins and had frequent
contact with his children. The informant's relationship with the
children was such that Nancy was willing to tell her what Ms.
Sherman said even though Ms. Sherman had asked her to keep it
Moreover, the confidential informant did not provide the
information in a vacuum. There was an outstanding investigation
into the "suspicious" death of the 30-year old Delinda Adkins. As
a result of the investigation, law enforcement officers knew that
Dr. Adkins' medical license had been suspended by the state of
Maryland; both his first and second wife had died at a relatively
young age of undetermined causes; he was allegedly having an
extra-marital affair with Karen Sherman at the time Delinda died;
Sherman moved in with him shortly after Delinda's death; and Dr.
Adkins had brandished a weapon in a hospital emergency room. Such
objective evidence, when combined with the information provided
by the confidential informant about Sherman's statement to Nancy and the children's frequent
flu-like illnesses and absences from school, provided reasonable
grounds to conclude that Dr. Adkins' children were in imminent
danger of harm if they were not removed from his custody.
Plaintiffs claim that Defendants should have conducted further
investigation before taking such drastic action. Plaintiffs
assert that the investigation should have at least included
contacting the children's school, pediatrician or other
individuals with knowledge of the family before deciding to
remove the children from their home. (Pl.'s Br. in Opp. at 20.)
While the advantage of hindsight suggests that a comprehensive
investigation could have allayed concerns and avoided removal of
the children, the failure to complete such an investigation
before deciding to act does not show an arbitrary abuse of
government power. See Patterson v. Armstrong County Children
and Youth Services, 141 F. Supp. 2d 512, 524 (W.D. Pa. 2001).
The fact remains that the evidence in Defendants' possession was
sufficient to establish a reasonable suspicion that Dr. Adkins'
children were in imminent danger of harm. Defendants had a
reasonable basis for concluding that Dr. Adkins' children needed
to be removed from his custody pending the completion of a
sufficient medical examination of the children. Their conduct was
not grossly negligent or so arbitrary as to "shock the
conscience." They were confronted with difficult circumstances.
That they may have overreacted to the situation does not support
a finding that the removal of the children for a period of four
days to assure their health and safety was conscience-shocking. Certitude was not required of Defendants before they took
action. All that the constitution required of Defendants on March
18, 1999 was that they have "reasonable and articulable evidence"
giving rise to reasonable suspicion that the children were in
imminent danger of harm. Patterson, 141 F. Supp. 2d at 525.
Since they have presented such "reasonable and articulable
evidence," Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiffs' substantive due process claim.
B. Fourth Amendment Claim
Plaintiffs have also asserted a claim based on the alleged
deprivation of their Fourth Amendment right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures. To prove a claim under the
Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that the defendants'
actions (1) constituted a "search" or "seizure" within the
meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and (2) were "unreasonable" in
light of the surrounding circumstances. Defendants do not contest
that their actions constitute a "seizure" under the Fourth
Amendment. They claim, however, that their actions were
reasonable under the circumstances.
"[T]he test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not
capable of precise definition or mechanical application." Bell
v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979). When determining whether a
government seizure violates the Fourth Amendment, the seizure
must be examined for its overall reasonableness. See Soldal v.
Cook County, III., 506 U.S. 56, 71 (1992) ("`reasonableness is
still the ultimate standard' under the Fourth Amendment")
(citation omitted). The analysis must be based upon a "careful balancing of
governmental and private interests." Id. (quoting New Jersey
v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 341 (1985)).
"It is well-settled that `in emergency circumstances which pose
an immediate threat to the safety of a child, officials may
temporarily deprive a parent of custody without parental consent
or an order of the court.'" Brown v. Daniels,
128 Fed. Appx. 910, 914-15 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Hollingsworth v. Hill,
110 F.3d 733, 739 (10th Cir. 1997)). "The state may intervene in the
relationship between parent and child where intervention serves
the interests of the state or the interests of the child."
Winston by Winston v. Children and Youth Services of Delaware
County, 748 F. Supp. 1128, 1134 (E.D. Pa. 1990).
As set forth above, Defendants had a reasonable basis for
concluding that Jesse and Nancy were in imminent danger.
Defendants acted reasonably, placing the children in the care of
a trusted friend of Dr. Adkins and only for a brief period of
time to assess their condition and conduct medical examinations.
Thus, the compelled removal of the children did not offend the
The government's interest in conducting the medical testing on
the Adkins' children was to ensure the health and safety of the
children. In order to do this, Defendants believed it was
necessary to have an independent physician perform a series of
tests to determine if the children were suffering from an illness
or had been poisoned. Dr. Adkins' children were thus forced to undergo medical testing without his consent.*fn8
It is well established that governmental taking of bodily fluids
constitutes a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
See Vernonia School Dist. 47 J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646, 652
(1995), Wilcher v. City of Wilmington, 139 F.3d 366, 373 (3d
Cir. 1998). Therefore, the Court must determine whether the
medical tests were "reasonable" under the circumstances.
Soldal, 506 U.S. at 71. When considering the constitutionality
of a medical exam ordered by a government agency without a
warrant or the party's consent, the Supreme Court has established
a "special needs" analysis,*fn9 which directs the courts to
consider three factors: (1) the nature of the privacy interest
upon which the search intrudes; (2) the extent to which the
search intrudes on the individual's privacy; and (3) the nature
and immediacy of the governmental concern at issue, and the
efficacy of the means employed by the government for meeting that concern. Vernonia
School Dist., 515 U.S. at 653-61.
At the time of the medical examinations, the state had assumed
custody of the children. "The relevant question is whether the
[medical examination] is one that a . . . reasonable guardian . . .
might undertake." Id. at 665. In light of the evidence
available to Defendants at the time, which indicated that Dr.
Adkins' children might have been poisoned or in imminent danger
of harm, it was reasonable to direct the children to undergo
Next, the Court must consider the degree to which the medical
testing intruded on the children's privacy. The medical test that
were performed on the children consisted of a blood test and
urinalysis. In addition, a throat swab was conducted on Jessie
Adkins. There is no question that the tests performed were
invasive. It is, however, the degree and reasonableness of the
invasion which is determinative of a constitutional violation.
The Supreme Court has held that the intrusion occasioned by a
blood test is not significant since such "tests are a commonplace
in these days of periodic physical examinations and experience
with them teaches that the quantity of blood extracted is
minimal, and that for the most people the procedure involves
virtually no risk, trauma, or pain." Schmerber v. California,
384 U.S. 757, 771 (1966). The urine samples were obtained in a
medical environment at Geisinger Medical Center by a licensed
physician, Dr. Cordes. Thus, the extent of the intrusion on the
children's privacy was not unreasonable. Furthermore, the tests performed on the children were
specifically limited to the detection of a serious illness or
indications of poisoning. The ultimate goal of the tests was to
determine whether Dr. Adkins' children were being abused.
Plaintiffs, however, argue that the decision to provided the
results from the medical tests performed on Dr. Adkins' children
to the pathologist performing an autopsy on Delinda Adkins proves
that the test were arranged in order to further the investigation
into Delinda Adkins' death and not to ensure the safety of the
children. (Pl. Br. in Opp. at 25.) This argument is without
merit. The fact that the results of the children's medical tests
were disclosed to the pathologist does not suggest an improper
motive. On the contrary, comparison of information obtained by
the pathologist with the results of the medical testing could
assist in determining whether the children were in imminent harm.
The final factor which the Court must consider is the "nature
and immediacy of the governmental concern at issue, and the
efficacy of the means employed by the government for meeting that
concern." Vernonia School Dist. 47J, 515 U.S. at 660.
Defendants' concern in this case was ensuring the health,
welfare, and safety of Dr. Adkins' children. Defendants had been
presented with evidence that Dr. Adkins' children were exhibiting
flu-like symptoms that were left untreated and they were missing
school. Defendants' concern for the children was immediate, as
their lives were potentially in imminent danger of harm. With
respect to the efficacy of the means for addressing the
aforementioned concern, subjecting Dr. Adkins' children to
medical testing was plainly an effective means for determining
whether they were actually poisoned or suffering from a serious illness.
In short, the actions taken by Defendants were an appropriate
and effective means of resolving the concern of the potential
abuse of Dr. Adkins' children. In light of the statement made by
Karen Sherman to Nancy Adkins and the potential harm that Dr.
Adkins' children faced if Defendants had failed to intervene, a
"reasonable guardian" would in fact have undertaken this course
of action. Consequently, the compulsory medical examinations were
reasonable, and did not violate either Dr. Adkins' or his
children's Fourth Amendment rights.*fn10
For the reasons set forth above, Defendants' motions for
summary judgment will be granted. An appropriate Order follows. ORDER
NOW, THIS 2nd DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 2005, for the reasons set
forth in the foregoing Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. Defendants' motions for summary judgement (Dkt. Entries 90,
108, 109 and 112) are GRANTED.
2. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of
Defendants and against Plaintiffs. 3. The Clerk of Court is directed to mark this matter CLOSED.
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.