Nevada County, Grass Valley face lawsuit alleging excessive force, disregard of medical needs |

Nevada County, Grass Valley face lawsuit alleging excessive force, disregard of medical needs

Nevada County is facing a lawsuit alleging excessive force — a legal action filed a week before officials reached a tentative agreement in an unrelated suit.

The lawsuit, filed late last month in federal court, claims Grass Valley police used excessive force on Sept. 5 when they forced a handcuffed John David Peterson to an emergency room floor. Later, at the Nevada County Jail, personnel disregarded his medical needs.

Released two days later, Peterson went to the hospital and was diagnosed with sepsis — a life threatening infection — as well as a bone infection. He remained in the hospital for 45 days, the suit states.

“Plaintiff’s tibia was left exposed and the surrounding tissue was necrotic,” the lawsuit claims. “The hospital was not able to do a graft because there was not enough tissue for reattachment.”

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Peterson in his suit is asking for over $1 million in damages.

Defendants include Nevada County, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, the city of Grass Valley, Correctional Medical Group Companies, Inc., and several officers and staff.

County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green said the county hasn’t yet been served the complaint and hasn’t seen it. Tom Last, director of Grass Valley’s Community Development Department, also said he hasn’t seen the suit.

Nevada County Supervisor Richard Anderson, chairman of the board, declined comment.

Peterson filed his suit a week before county officials and Christopher Howie reached a tentative agreement to settle an unrelated federal suit, court records show. Attorney Patrick Dwyer represents both Peterson and Howie.

In his suit Howie alleged correctional officer Adam Grizzell in January 2018 forced him to the floor of the Nevada County Jail, breaking his leg. Dwyer has said the county agreed to a “substantial monetary payment” as part of the agreement.


Grass Valley police arrested Peterson on Sept. 5. They then took him to the hospital for a medical assessment before he was booked into jail, the suit states.

At the hospital Peterson tried to show officers he’d had surgery years ago on his right leg and ankle. A steel plate and screws held it together. Peterson used his left foot to remove his right sock, showing the officers a scar, the suit states.

According to the lawsuit, an officer said he wanted Peterson to put on the sock. Peterson tried to put it on while handcuffed. The officer then intervened.

“(The officer) then approached Plaintiff and grabbed his arm, pulling him out of the chair he had been sitting in,” court documents states. “(The officer) then pulled Plaintiff into the air and caused him to fall head first onto the floor. (The officer) then had Plaintiff upside down with his head and right shoulder on the floor and his feet in the air. (The officer) then began pushing down on Plaintiff’s right foot (the one with the steel plate) trying to shove Plaintiff’s leg back through the handcuffs.”

Officers ultimately decided to remove Peterson’s handcuffs to resolve the issue. They then took him to jail, the suit states.

Peterson told a nurse at the jail about the incident. He could still walk at the time, though he had pain, according to the lawsuit.

Peterson had a fever that night and the pain in his knee was growing. The next day a nurse took X-rays of his leg and Peterson learned the screws had been pulled from the steel plate on his tibia. However, he received no further treatment and was returned to his cell. Hours later he was released, court documents state.

Sick and in pain, Peterson walked to a nearby gas station, borrowed a phone and called an ambulance. He went to the hospital, was told he had a temperature of 103 and later diagnosed with sepsis and a bone infection, the suit states.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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