Caldwell v. Gupta et al
OPINION AND ORDER STRIKING 1 PRO SE COMPLAINT filed by Chase R Caldwell; STRIKING 3 MOTION to Amend 1 Pro Se Complaint by Plaintiff Chase R Caldwell; STRIKING 4 MOTION to Ask Leave to Amend 1 Pro Se Complaint by Plaintiff Chase R Caldwell; STRIKING 5 MOTION to Ask for Jury Trial by Plaintiff Chase R Caldwell; STRIKING 7 MOTION too Leave too Amend Original Cause of Complaint re 1 Pro Se Complaint by Plaintiff Chase R Caldwell; STRIKING 8 PLANTIFF'S REQUEST too Amend Cause r e 1 Pro Se Complaint by Plaintiff Chase R Caldwell; TAKING UNDER ADVISEMENT 2 MOTION for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis by Plaintiff Chase R Caldwell; GRANTING Plaintiff until 6/17/2015 to file an Amended Complaint; CAUTIONING Plaintiff if he does not respond by the deadline, this case will be dismissed. Signed by Judge Jon E DeGuilio on 5/19/15. (cc: Chase R Caldwell). (cer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
CHASE R. CALDWELL,
SAMIR GUPTA, et al.,
Case No. 2:15-CV-157 JD
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Chase R. Caldwell filed a pro se complaint in this action arising out of his
involuntary detention and commitment. Mr. Caldwell has also filed a petition for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis, and has since filed a series of motions for leave to amend his
complaint, along with two briefs in support of his claims. While Mr. Caldwell meets the financial
requirements to proceed without prepaying the filing fee, the Court also has an obligation under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) to dismiss a complaint if the Court determines that it “fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted.” Under federal pleading standards:
[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation marks and internal citations omitted).
When a complaint is confusing or lacking in necessary detail, the district court is “within its
rights” to dismiss the complaint with leave to replead. Loubser v. Thacker, 440 F.3d 439, 443
(7th Cir. 2006).
In his initial complaint, Mr. Caldwell named two doctors, Samir Gupta and Verma
Amendeep, as defendants. He alleged that Dr. Gupta ordered a 72-hour detention for Mr.
Caldwell to be admitted to Porter Starke Services, a mental health facility. He further alleges that
Dr. Amandeep sought a forced medication order, which was granted by a state court, resulting in
Mr. Caldwell being medicated against his will. Mr. Caldwell was then released after seventeen
days as an involuntary patient at the facility.
In his first motion for leave to amend his complaint, dated April 22, 2015, [DE 3], Mr.
Caldwell states that he is suing Dr. Gupta and Dr. Amandeep for negligence, and he reiterates
some of the same facts as in his initial complaint. In his second motion for leave to amend his
complaint, dated April 27, 2015 [DE 4], Mr. Caldwell seeks to drop Dr. Gupta as a defendant,
and to add Nurse Diana Harris. He alleges that Dr. Amandeep filed an order of temporary
commitment following the 72-hour emergency detention, and that Nurse Harris administered
medication against his will. Mr. Caldwell asserts that these actions violated his Fourteenth
Amendment right to liberty. However, in his most recent motion for leave to amend, dated May
7, 2015, Mr. Caldwell again names Dr. Gupta and Dr. Amandeep as the defendants. [DE 8]. In
addition to alleging that the defendants violated his liberty interests, Mr. Caldwell alleges that
they violated various obligations under state law, in that they failed to exercise reasonable care in
diagnosing and treating him, and that they failed to keep his medical records confidential.
Even construing these pleadings liberally in favor of Mr. Caldwell, his allegations do not
plead any actionable federal claim. Mr. Caldwell appears to primarily assert that the defendants
violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to liberty. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
a violation of federally protected rights, a plaintiff must plead two elements: “First, the plaintiff
must allege that some person has deprived him of a federal right. Second, he must allege that the
person who has deprived him of the right acted under color of state law.” Alvarado v. Litscher,
267 F.3d 648, 651 (7th Cir. 2001). Mr. Caldwell’s complaint does not satisfy either element.
As to whether he was deprived of a federal right, Mr. Caldwell alleges that he was
confined and medicated against his will, but his allegations do not indicate that the defendants
did so wrongfully. “Generally speaking, a mental-health seizure is lawful if there is probable
cause to believe that the person seized is a danger to [himself] or others.” Bruce v. Guernsey, 777
F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 2015). Here, Mr. Caldwell does not plead any facts giving rise to his
confinement; he simply alleges that the doctors caused him to be confined, which fails to
plausibly suggest that the defendants confined him without probable cause. Likewise, the due
process clause does not forbid medicating an individual against their will; it simply requires
certain procedural protections. See Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 221–22 (1990). Here,
Mr. Caldwell’s allegations indicate that the defendants sought and received court permission to
administer medications, so it is not apparent from his allegations how the defendants violated his
rights in that respect.
Mr. Caldwell’s pleadings also fail to state a federal claim for a more fundamental reason,
in that there is no indication that any of the defendants acted under color of state law, such that
they could be subject to suit under § 1983. “Indiana law provides a detailed process for the
involuntary commitment of mentally ill persons who may be dangerous to themselves or others.”
Sherman v. Four Cnty. Counseling Ctr., 987 F.2d 397, 400 (7th Cir. 1993). “An individual may
be detained in a facility for not more than seventy-two (72) hours . . . if a written application for
detention is filed with the facility.” Ind. Code § 12-26-5-1(a). The application need not be made
by a police officer or state official. Berryhill v. Parkview Hosp., 962 N.E.2d 685, 690–92 (Ind.
Ct. App. 2012) (holding that an individually was lawfully detained where the application was
signed by his wife). An individual may also be temporarily committed for up to ninety days by
order of a court if continued involuntary detention is necessary. Ind. Code § 12-26-6-1.
However, initiating and pursuing detention and commitment proceedings does not make
an individual a state actor. The en banc Seventh Circuit addressed this scenario in Spencer v.
Lee: “Do a private physician and a private hospital act under color of state law, and therefore lay
themselves open to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, when they commit a mentally disturbed
person? . . . [W]e hold they do not.” 864 F.2d 1376, 1377 (7th Cir. 1989) (en banc); see also de
Vryer v. Maryville Acad., 544 F. App’x 653, 654 (7th Cir. 2013) (“Private facilities and their
employees do not engage in state action by virtue of their participation in this [civil commitment]
process.”). Other courts of appeals have reached the same conclusion. E.g., Wittner v. Banner
Health, 720 F.3d 770, 775–81 (10th Cir. 2013) (holding that a doctor and nurse at a private
hospital did not act under state law when they detained and medicated an individual consistent
with the state’s involuntary commitment laws); Estades-Negroni v. CPC Hosp. San Juan
Capestrano, 412 F.3d 1, 4–9 (1st Cir. 2005) (holding that private physicians did not act under
state law in connection with the plaintiff’s involuntary commitment and medication against her
will); Bass v. Parkwood Hosp., 180 F.3d 234, 241–43 (5th Cir. 1999) (collecting cases).
Therefore, because it appears from the complaint that each of the defendants were merely private
individuals who invoked Indiana’s involuntary detention and commitment procedures, Mr.
Caldwell has failed to allege that his rights were violated by individuals acting under color of
Mr. Caldwell’s pleadings therefore fail to state a claim under § 1983. In addition, while
Mr. Caldwell may have various claims under state law based on these or other facts, see Spencer,
864 F.2d at 1378 (“A purely private physician and a purely private hospital are alleged to have
confined the plaintiff against his will and to have injured him by improper medical treatment.
These are classic allegations of false imprisonment and malpractice . . . .”), he has not asserted a
basis upon which to bring those claims in this federal action instead of in state court.
Accordingly, the Court strikes the complaint and each of the motions for leave to amend, but
grants Mr. Caldwell an opportunity to file an amended complaint that either states a claim under
federal law, or that presents another basis for pursuing these claims in federal court.
For these reasons, the court:
STRIKES the complaint [DE 1] and each of the motions for leave to amend [DE
3, 4, 5, 7, 8];
TAKES the in forma pauperis petition [DE 2] under advisement;
GRANTS the Plaintiff to and including June 17, 2015, to file an amended
CAUTIONS the Plaintiff that if he does not respond by the deadline, this case will
be dismissed without further notice.
ENTERED: May 19, 2015
/s/ JON E. DEGUILIO
United States District Court
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