Eye On Boise

FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2012, 4:56 P.M.

9th Circuit to hold special sitting in Boise for first time since 2003, hear parents’ rights case

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will hold a special sitting in Boise on Tuesday for the first time since 2003, to hear oral arguments in the case of a 5-week-old baby girl who was given a spinal tap, antibiotics and steroids over her mother's objections, after the mom brought the infant to the St. Luke's emergency room with a low-grade fever at 10:15 on a summer night in 2002. When the mother, Corissa Mueller, refused the treatment, the hospital called in a hospital social worker who called police, and they then seized custody of the baby and performed the test. It found nothing. The protesting mother was dragged down the hall away from her baby by two police officers; she was kept from seeing the nursing infant for more than two hours; she was kept from using a phone to call her husband or her naturopath doctor; and the parents had to hire an attorney to regain custody of their child.

Parents Corissa and Eric Mueller sued St. Luke's, the emergency room doctor, the police officers and the city, but in 2010, a jury ruled against them after five days of deliberations, and they not only didn't recover any damages, but were ordered to pay the hospital's and city's trial costs. The Muellers have appealed to the 9th Circuit, and on Tuesday, three 9th Circuit judges - Randy Smith of Pocatello, Stephen Trott of Boise and J. Clifford Wallace of San Diego - will hear oral arguments in the appeal. The hearing will be held at the James A. McClure Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Boise, starting at 10 a.m.

The Muellers unsuccessfully sought class-action status in the case, to sue on behalf of all parents who bring their young children to emergency rooms. The doctor argued that the risk, though small, of potentially fatal meningitis in infants with similar symptoms meant the baby was in imminent danger. You can read the amended complaint here from the original Idaho lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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