Jackson v. Barden et al
REDACTED OPINION AND ORDER: Therefore, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's Eighth and Ninth Causes of Action without prejudice to their refiling in state court. For the reasons set forth above, Defendants' motions for summary judgment are GR ANTED. Plaintiff's First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Causes of Action are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Plaintiff's Eighth and Ninth Causes of Action are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate all pending motions, adjourn all remaining dates, and close this case. (Signed by Judge Katherine Polk Failla on 1/8/2018) (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MITCHELL BARDEN, M.D., personally,
SUKHMINDER SINGH, M.D., personally,
RAVINDER SIDHU, M.D., personally,
MICHAEL SUSCO, M.D., personally, and :
SAINT FRANCIS HOSPITAL,
DOC #: _________________
DATE FILED: ______________
January 8, 2018
12 Civ. 1069 (KPF)
KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge:
Cognizant of the gravity of such an event, New York law establishes
detailed procedures for hospitalizing an individual against his or her will. One
such procedure, codified in New York Mental Hygiene Law (“MHL”) § 9.37,
allows a hospital to “receive and care for” any person who, “in the opinion of
the director of community services or the director’s designee, has a mental
illness for which immediate inpatient care and treatment” is appropriate and
that is “likely to result in serious harm to” him or herself or others.
On October 22, 2009, Plaintiff Gregory Jackson was involuntarily
hospitalized pursuant to MHL § 9.37 after he displayed alarming behavior to,
among many others, numerous medical professionals from whom he received
treatment. In 2012, Plaintiff brought this action against several physicians
involved in his hospitalization and the receiving hospital, seeking damages for
alleged violations of (i) the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (ii) the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. § 794, and (iii) New York’s common-law tort of medical malpractice.
After extensive discovery, as well as a lengthy delay occasioned by the
bankruptcy filing of the receiving hospital, Defendants have moved for
summary judgment on all of Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff opposes the motions
except as they pertain to his Rehabilitation Act claim, which he now abandons.
As set forth in the remainder of this Opinion, all but one of the Defendants
were not acting on behalf of the State when making decisions about Plaintiff’s
condition and treatment, and the remaining Defendant is subject to qualified
immunity for his conduct. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s federal claims fail, and the
Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state-law
The Court draws the facts in this Opinion from the parties’ submissions in connection
with the motions for summary judgment, including the Local Rule 56.1 Statements of
Defendants Barden (“Barden 56.1”), and Sidhu, Susco, and Saint Francis Hospital
(“Saint Francis 56.1”); Plaintiff’s opposition to Defendant Barden’s 56.1 statement (“Pl.
56.1 Opp.” (Dkt. #145)); Plaintiff’s Affidavit (“Pl. Aff.” (Dkt. #147)); the deposition
transcripts of Plaintiff (“Pl. Dep.”), Mitchell Barden (“Barden Dep.”), John Stern (“Stern
Dep.”), Donna Lehnert (“Lehnert Dep.”), Ravinder Sidhu (“Sidhu Dep.”), Sukhminder
Singh (“Singh Dep.”), and Michael Susco (“Susco Dep.”); the declarations of Ravinder
Sidhu (“Sidhu Decl.”), Michael Susco (“Susco Decl.”), Sukhminder Singh (“Singh Reply
Decl.”), and Lisa Slocum (“Slocum Decl.”); and the exhibits attached to the declarations
of Mitchell Barden (“Barden Decl., Ex. [ ]”), Adam Sansolo (“Sansolo Decl., Ex. [ ]”), and
Ellen A. Fischer (“Fischer Decl., Ex. [ ]”). For convenience, the Court shall refer to
Plaintiff’s memorandum of law in opposition to summary judgment as “Pl. Opp.” (Dkt.
#144). Any document above lacking an accompanying docket number was filed under
seal and will be refiled in redacted form pursuant to the Court’s instructions.
Citations to a party’s Rule 56.1 Statement incorporate by reference the documents and
testimony cited therein. Where facts stated in a party’s Rule 56.1 Statement are
supported by testimonial or documentary evidence, and denied with only a conclusory
statement by the other party, the Court finds such facts to be true. See S.D.N.Y. Local
Rule 56.1(c) (“Each numbered paragraph in the statement of material facts set forth in
the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted
for purposes of the motion unless specifically controverted by a corresponding
The parties quibble over many of the factual details underlying Plaintiff’s
background and hospitalization. While none rises to the level of a genuine
dispute of material fact, the Court discusses both parties’ accounts when and
to the extent they diverge.
The most significant source of information concerning Plaintiff comes not
from his sworn statements, but from his “Core History,” a document assembled
by the New York State Office of Mental Health (“OMH”) and available to certain
healthcare professionals. As discussed below, this document contains highly
relevant information regarding Plaintiff’s psychiatric, criminal, and personal
Plaintiff’s Psychiatric History
Plaintiff, now 55 years old, has an extensive history of psychiatric illness
[redacted]. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶ 1, 15-16). [Redacted]. Despite these serious
diagnoses, Plaintiff has a history of failing to comply with medical treatment
directives, including the taking of medication, leading to numerous inpatient
hospitalizations. (Id. at ¶ 2).
numbered paragraph in the statement required to be served by the opposing party.”); id.
at 56.1(d) (“Each statement by the movant or opponent ... controverting any statement
of material fact[ ] must be followed by citation to evidence which would be admissible,
set forth as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).”).
The Court also pauses to extend its appreciation to Plaintiff’s counsel, who provided
exceptional representation to Plaintiff despite significant changes to counsel’s clinical
responsibilities during the pendency of this litigation. (See Dkt. #156).
Although his medical history precludes him from contesting the fact of
these psychiatric hospitalizations, Plaintiff vigorously disputes certain ancillary
details. For example, Plaintiff’s medical records state that in 1987, Plaintiff
assaulted a coworker, consequently lost his job, and was hospitalized at Prince
George Hospital in Maryland for two weeks. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 17). Plaintiff
acknowledges that he was involved in a shoving match at work, but insists that
he neither lost his job nor was hospitalized after the incident. (See id.).
From April to May of 1989, Plaintiff was hospitalized for approximately
two weeks at the Hudson River Psychiatric Center (“HRPC”) “for [redacted]
behavior.” (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 19). In June 1990, Plaintiff was readmitted to
HRPC for a similar length of time, in this instance for assaulting his wife and
threatening his neighbors. (See id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff admits that he kicked his
wife but denies threatening his neighbors, stating that he “never threatened to
cause harm,” but only played music loudly over his neighbors’ objections. (Pl.
Aff. ¶ 57; see id. at ¶ 55). Plaintiff’s records indicate that upon admission, “he
was [redacted],” and when asked about his interactions with his wife stated, “I
tried to instill a little fear in her, that’s all.” (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶ 21-22). In
connection with the instant motions, Plaintiff contends that this quote was
taken out of context, and that he made this statement in relation to a “feigned
suicide attempt” purported to invoke pity in his wife so that she would
financially support him. (Id. at ¶ 22).
In February 1991, Plaintiff was again admitted at HRPC, this time for
approximately three weeks. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 23). Plaintiff’s medical history
states that this hospitalization resulted after he assaulted his wife, but he
denies this incident. (Id.). 2 Upon admission, Plaintiff was [redacted], but
Plaintiff contests that he displayed any behavior warranting such treatment.
(See id. at ¶ 24).
In 1992, Plaintiff was admitted to HRPC from May 27 to July 22 “because
of [redacted] behavior” after an altercation with his wife when she served him
with a separation order. (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 25). Plaintiff contends such service
never occurred, “and hence, [he] could not have been agitated in response to
this action.” (Id.). Nevertheless, Plaintiff does not dispute that during his
admission, he was [redacted]. (See id. at ¶¶ 26-27).
In May 2006, Plaintiff was hospitalized for one week “due to [redacted].
(Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 28). Later that same year, from October 19 to December 29,
Plaintiff was admitted to Defendant Saint Francis Hospital (“Saint Francis”) in
Poughkeepsie, New York [redacted]. (Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff was thereafter
involuntarily transferred to HRPC for a period of time that the record does not
specify. (See id. at ¶ 31).
Plaintiff’s Criminal History
Plaintiff’s criminal history, as presented in his Core History, consists of
six arrests and four convictions, spanning from 1984 to 2009. (See Pl. 56.1
Plaintiff contends the only violent behavior in which he engaged was the 1989 assault
on his wife. (See Pl. Aff. ¶ 55). Though he admits that on another occasion around
1999 or 2000, he “attempted to hit [his] ex-girlfriend,” he attempts to minimize this
attack, stating “she turned away” and Plaintiff therefore missed and “did not strike her.”
Opp. ¶ 35). 3
Several of Plaintiff’s convictions involve forceful or destructive behavior.
On January 19, 2008, Plaintiff was charged with burglary but later pled guilty
to a lesser offense of criminal trespass. (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶ 36-37). On
February 23, 2009, Plaintiff was charged with criminal mischief with intent to
damage property after vandalizing the exterior of a building. (See id. at ¶ 32).
The charges were dismissed in March 2009 upon a finding that Plaintiff was
incapacitated [redacted]. (See id.; see also N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 730.40
(establishing procedure for finding incapacity to stand trial and remand to care
of OMH)). On February 23, 2009, Plaintiff was also charged with criminal
mischief and damaging another person’s property in excess of $250. (See Pl.
56.1 Opp. ¶ 40). These charges were also dismissed in March 2009 after
Plaintiff was found incapacitated. (Id. at ¶ 41).
Plaintiff’s Core History also evinces, with varying degrees of detail, his
participation in a number of crimes involving theft or fraud. In November
2000, Plaintiff was charged with criminal possession of stolen property, a
charge to which he later pled guilty. (See Barden Decl., Ex. N, at 3). On
December 10 and 19, 2002, Plaintiff was charged with carrying out a scheme to
defraud, though his Core History does not provide the details of the scheme or
the ultimate resolution of these charges. (See id.). In November 2003, Plaintiff
During his deposition, Plaintiff admitted to additional convictions not contained in his
Core History. (See, e.g., Pl. Dep. 261:19-23 (admitting to “[m]ore than five” convictions);
id. at 264:17-25 (admitting to conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon resulting
in four-year prison sentence)).
was charged with criminal impersonation, to which he later pled guilty and for
which he was sentenced to three years’ probation. (Id.). And in April and
October 2008, Plaintiff was charged with issuing bad checks; the Core History
does not indicate the resolution of these charges. (Id. at 4).
Plaintiff’s History of Substance Abuse
Plaintiff’s Core History recites that in the late 1980s to early ’90s,
Plaintiff’s drug and alcohol abuse, coupled with [redacted], resulted in
“numerous admissions to HRPC.” (Barden Decl., Ex. N, at 5). Plaintiff has also
been [redacted] (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 33), and his Core History states that he
“reports extensive use of crack cocaine and marijuana and has had 2 DWI’s in
his early 20’s as a result of drinking” (Barden Decl., Ex. N, at 6). 4 After
Plaintiff’s week-long hospitalization in May 2006, he began outpatient
treatment but did not consistently comply, leading to a relapse of crack cocaine
use in August 2006. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶ 29, 34). According to Plaintiff, he
last used cocaine in 2008. (Id. at ¶ 33).
Events Preceding Plaintiff’s October 2009 Involuntary
The events leading up to Plaintiff’s involuntary hospitalization on
October 22, 2009, involve numerous interactions with psychiatric support
specialists, healthcare providers, and other professionals. Several of these
Despite this statement, the criminal history section of Plaintiff’s Core History reflects
only one conviction for driving while intoxicated. (See Barden Decl., Ex. N, at 3-4).
individuals were affiliated with New York State and local governments. Of note,
however, the hospital to which Plaintiff was admitted was private, as were its
Dutchess County’s Involuntary Hospitalization
Defendant Mitchell Barden, M.D., was the initial medical professional
who completed an MHL § 9.37 application to have Plaintiff evaluated for
hospitalization. (See Barden 56.1 ¶¶ 102-03). In October 2009, Dr. Barden
was an OMH psychiatrist employed at HRPC. (See id. at ¶ 3). In this capacity,
Dr. Barden was the leader and decision-maker for the Dutchess County Mobile
Crisis Team (“MCT”), a state-operated entity of healthcare professionals
dispatched to sites within the County to address psychiatric crises. (See id. at
More specifically, after receiving a dispatch referral, Dr. Barden was
responsible for determining whether an individual satisfied MHL § 9.37 by
presenting sufficient danger to require hospitalization and further psychiatric
evaluation. (See Barden Dep. 17:17-23). Upon such determination, police or
other authorities would apprehend the individual and transport him or her to a
hospital for psychiatric evaluation in accordance with MHL § 9.37. (See id. at
The Court discusses the further operation of MHL § 9.37 below.
The Dutchess County Psychiatric Helpline
The MCT dispatches its healthcare professionals based on referrals from
a 24-hour Helpline operated by the Dutchess County Department of Mental
Hygiene. (See Barden Dep. 20:15-21:11). The Helpline also provides
counseling and a contact point for psychiatric emergency services. (Stern
Dep. 8:12-21). At the time of Plaintiff’s hospitalization, Helpline Clinical Unit
Administrator John Stern was responsible for referring individuals for
involuntary hospitalization evaluations. (Id. at 7:18-8:21).
Stern described Plaintiff as “a frequent caller to Helpline” (Stern
Dep. 19:18), and Plaintiff does not dispute that he called “[m]any times” (Pl.
Dep. 96:8). Indeed, Stern testified that Plaintiff called so often that it
“significantly interfered with [Helpline’s] operation.” (Stern Dep. 20:12-14).
According to Stern, Plaintiff would often express hostility toward Helpline staff,
such as threatening lawsuits, causing Stern to be “frightened for [his] safety,
and … for the safety of the staff.” (Id. at 66:23-67:5).
Assertive Community Treatment
Assertive Community Treatment (“ACT”) is an intensive, outpatient
psychiatric program that treats patients who require frequent hospitalization
and home visits. (See Barden Dep. 25:14-21; Stern Dep. 58:24-25). In June
2009, ACT admitted and began providing outpatient services to Plaintiff. (See
Pl. Dep. 248:10-249:12). On October 14, 2009, however, Dr. Stacyann Hahn,
Director of ACT, completed a memo stating that Plaintiff “would be discharged
from the ACT team immediately” because he was not cooperating with
treatment and was becoming [redacted]. (Barden Decl., Ex. O; see Barden Dep.
27:6-7, 28:13-14). This memo was then forwarded to Dr. Barden. (See Barden
Dep. 27:4-22). Somewhat presciently, Dr. Barden received word from ACT
during this time that he might one day need to dispatch the MCT to pick up
Plaintiff because Plaintiff was [redacted]. (See id. at 26:19-27:3, 29:22-30:5).
Plaintiff’s Visit to the Dutchess County Executive’s
One week after his discharge from the ACT program, on October 22,
2009, Plaintiff visited the Dutchess County Executive’s Office. Plaintiff
concedes that during that entire month, he was suffering from [redacted]. (Pl.
56.1 Opp. ¶¶ 48-49). He further acknowledges that he did not sleep at all the
preceding evening. (Id. at ¶ 47).
Accounts diverge as to the tenor and extent of Plaintiff’s interactions with
employees at the office. The first person Plaintiff encountered was Donna
Lehnert, a budget assistant in the Dutchess County Budget Office, which
shared office space with the Dutchess County Executive. (See Lehnert Dep.
6:23-7:13). Among other duties, Lehnert was responsible for greeting visitors
of both offices, and her desk sat alone in a front entrance room. (See id. at 7:58, 8:1-7).
According to Lehnert, she received a phone call from Plaintiff on the
morning of October 22 in which he requested to meet with the County
Executive; when Lehnert informed Plaintiff that the County Executive was
unavailable and asked if she could take a message, Plaintiff stated “he had
something to show [the County Executive] … regarding Mental Hygiene.”
(Lehnert Dep. 14:8-14). Within an hour of the call, Plaintiff arrived at the office
and requested to schedule a meeting with the County Executive. (Id. at
14:15-18, 15:12-13). When Lehnert stated that the County Executive was
unavailable, Plaintiff “got agitated and … started walking and pacing and
talking to himself” before having a seat and repeatedly opening, looking into,
and closing a briefcase. (Id. at 15:14-22). Lehnert tried to obtain information
from Plaintiff to schedule an appointment, but Plaintiff “got upset[,] … started
pacing[,] and [said] he wanted to wait for” the County Executive. (Id. at
Plaintiff’s behavior frightened Lehnert: “His behavior was threatening. …
He was talking to himself, he was pacing and he kept looking in a dark
briefcase. It was scary. It’s threatening.” (Lehnert Dep. 21:21, 21:24-22:1).
While Plaintiff was still in the office, Lehnert emailed a coworker to request
security personnel. (Id. at 18:8-11). In the meantime, Plaintiff began reading
pamphlets available in the office, continued opening and closing his briefcase,
and began “mumbling to himself.” (Id. at 18:17-24). After Lehnert sent a
second email to her coworker, the coworker came to Lehnert’s office,
questioned Plaintiff, and left. (See id. at 19:4-18).
By the time security arrived, Plaintiff had exited. (See Lehnert
Dep. 20:8-12). With Plaintiff gone, Lehnert called the Deputy Sheriff on duty in
the building to inform him that she neither wanted Plaintiff to return to the
office nor wanted to be alone. (Id. at 23:22-24:7). Lehnert then called the
Helpline to inform John Stern that Plaintiff had visited the office; Lehnert also
asked Stern whether Plaintiff was violent. (See id. at 25:17-26:2). 6
At approximately 9:45 a.m., Stern called Dr. Barden and warned him
that the MCT might need to evaluate Plaintiff for hospitalization. (See Barden
Dep. 31:8-17). During the call, Stern indicated that Plaintiff
was harassing [someone] at the County Executive’s
office, that he had been there earlier that day and had
to be escorted out, that in the past he had often
frequented that office and had to be escorted out by
security, that he was refusing medication and
treatment, that he was hostile towards Mr. Stern and
[Helpline] staff, [redacted], and … that [he] was making
threats towards the Helpline staff.
(Id. at 31:21-32:8). Stern also informed Dr. Barden that in the past, when
Plaintiff “refused medication[, he] had a history of becoming [redacted], and
that at [that] time [Plaintiff] was refusing all treatment and medication.” (Id. at
Later that day, Stern completed a Mobile Team Referral form, requesting
the MCT to evaluate Plaintiff. (See Stern Dep. 39:21-40:3; Barden Decl., Ex. P).
The reason for referral, as Stern handwrote in the form, was that [redacted].
(Stern Dep. 40:17-20; see Barden Decl., Ex. P). The form instructed the MCT
to “[e]valuate [Plaintiff] for hospitalization.” (Stern Dep. 40:20-21; see Barden
Decl., Ex. P).
Plaintiff tells a different story. According to him, on the morning of
October 22, he never called the County Executive’s Office, but merely visited to
During her deposition, Lehnert could not recall whether Stern answered this question.
(See Lehnert Dep. 26:11).
make an appointment with and obtain the name and phone number of
someone who could help him obtain records from HRPC to support an ongoing
lawsuit against the psychiatric center. (See Pl. Aff. ¶¶ 23-24; Pl. Dep. 66:1467:2). While he was at the office, the County Executive entered Lehnert’s office
and asked Plaintiff to present a letter from HRPC denying him access to the
records he sought. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 26). Plaintiff responded that he only wanted the
name and number of someone who could help him, and he promptly left after
receiving that information and sitting in the office to rest for a short time. (See
id. at ¶¶ 26-29). In further contrast to Lehnert’s testimony and Stern’s report,
Plaintiff states that he only opened his briefcase once to store a brochure from
the office, and he denies pacing or threatening anyone while he was there. (Id.
at ¶¶ 28-29).
Plaintiff’s Interaction with Dr. Barden
After receiving the referral from Stern, Dr. Barden reviewed Plaintiff’s
Core History and, based on this review along with the information received
from Stern and ACT members, determined that Plaintiff was at “a very high risk
of being [redacted] towards others.” (Barden Dep. 38:3-14; see id. at
26:19-27:14). Before Dr. Barden or the MCT could examine Plaintiff per the
referral form, however, Plaintiff unexpectedly appeared at Dr. Barden’s office at
around 11:00 a.m. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 89). Plaintiff has explained that he
went to Dr. Barden’s office at the direction of the Director of Community
Services, who informed Plaintiff that Dr. Barden was a psychiatrist who could
administer prescription antipsychotic medication. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 31).
Here again, the parties provide differing accounts of events. According to
Plaintiff, his interaction with Dr. Barden lasted less than a minute. (See, e.g.,
Pl. Aff. ¶ 33; Pl. Dep. 70:14-16 (“I saw him for about 24 seconds and I left[.]”)).
Plaintiff explained that he eschewed Dr. Barden’s professional services because
the doctor looked unprofessional. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 32). Plaintiff further describes
their encounter as follows:
I walked in and asked “are you Dr. Barden?” Dr. Barden
replied “yes.” I then stated “I will let you know if I want
to be treated by you.” Dr. Barden said “wait.” I replied
“I’m leaving.” Dr. Barden again said “wait.” I then said
“I’ve spoken” and left his office.
(Pl. Aff. ¶ 33).
Under Dr. Barden’s account, the two met for approximately ten minutes.
(Barden Dep. 44:2-5). After he met Plaintiff in the waiting room and took him
to a conference room for an evaluation, Plaintiff began commenting about Dr.
Barden’s eyes, saying they “looked evil” and “infectious,” and “that the devil
was present in [Dr. Barden’s] eyes.” (Id. at 39:15-40:5). Dr. Barden responded
that he was blind in one eye and had a cadaveric corneal graft that was not
infectious. (Id. at 40:5-8). Plaintiff denies mentioning Dr. Barden’s eyes during
their meeting. (See Pl. Aff. ¶ 34). 7
Dr. Barden recalls Plaintiff stating that he was facing harassment from
government agencies and healthcare providers, such as HRPC, ACT, Saint
Francis, and Helpline, along with individuals associated with those entities,
Plaintiff claims Dr. Barden concocted this exchange after reading a prior complaint that
Plaintiff filed in state court in which he described Dr. Barden’s eyes as “devilish.” (Pl.
Aff. ¶ 34).
including John Stern and Stacyann Hahn. (See Barden Dep. 40:20-41:6). This
alleged harassment consisted of statements to Plaintiff that [redacted], and
Plaintiff feared that this might lead to further hospitalization. (See id. at 41:1119). Dr. Barden then asked Plaintiff about his threats to the Helpline staff and
whether [redacted], to which Plaintiff impliedly responded that [redacted]. (See
id. at 41:21-42:2). Dr. Barden was unable to evaluate Plaintiff further because
Plaintiff abruptly departed. (Id. at 42:9-12).
Dr. Barden’s Application for Involuntary Hospitalization
After his interaction with Plaintiff, Dr. Barden concluded that Plaintiff
was “extremely dangerous to others”; indeed, Dr. Barden feared for his own
safety, especially given Plaintiff’s vociferous opposition to even the possibility of
hospitalization. (Barden Dep. 43:8-24). Dr. Barden estimates that his entire
time spent determining whether Plaintiff required hospitalization — consisting
of reading Plaintiff’s medical history, speaking with Stern, and preparing the
case for other MCT members — spanned approximately 45 minutes. (Id. at
44:9-47:20). Based on these sources as well as his interaction with Plaintiff,
Dr. Barden completed an MHL § 9.37 Application for Involuntary Admission to
Saint Francis, finding that Plaintiff presented “a substantial risk of physical
harm to other persons, as manifested by homicidal or other violent behavior by
which others are placed in reasonable fear of serious physical harm.” (Barden
Decl., Ex. Q; see Barden Dep. 58:11-20). 8
Certain of the moving parties make arguments concerning Plaintiff’s potential danger to
himself on that day (see, e.g., Singh Br. 7-8), but the Court focuses in this Opinion on
the basis cited by Dr. Barden in the Application for Involuntary Admission.
In the application, Dr. Barden described Plaintiff’s behavior as follows:
“Patient is [redacted]. Patient has been harassing the County Executive and
the head of HRPC and others. His [insight and] judgments are poor.” (Barden
Dep. 58:25-59:5; see Barden Decl., Ex. Q). During his deposition, Dr. Barden
added additional reasons for completing the application: Plaintiff “made
threats to harm staff at County Helpline[,] … denies having mental illness[,]
and has in the past become violent when not taking medication.” (Barden
Dep. 59:6-20). Furthermore, Dr. Barden testified that Plaintiff’s Core History
revealed a pattern of behavior that posed a danger to Plaintiff’s self and others,
including [redacted]. (See, e.g., id. at 68:2-69:9).
Plaintiff’s Hospitalization at Saint Francis
After Dr. Barden submitted his application, authorities apprehended
Plaintiff at his apartment and transported him to Saint Francis, a private
Catholic community hospital. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 107; Pl. Dep. 132:24-133:3;
Sidhu Decl. ¶ 4). Again, the parties provide divergent tales of what occurred
following Plaintiff’s arrival at Saint Francis.
Dr. Sidhu’s Initial Evaluation
On October 22, 2009, Defendant Ravinder Sidhu, M.D., was on duty at
Saint Francis as an emergency medicine physician; Dr. Sidhu was not a
municipal employee and did not hold public office. (Sidhu Decl. ¶ 4). In the
context of receiving a patient for psychiatric admission, Dr. Sidhu was
responsible for evaluating the patient to determine whether the reason for the
behavior underlying the patient’s admission was psychiatric as opposed to
medical. (See Sidhu Dep. 87:11-88:11).
After Plaintiff arrived at Saint Francis, at 1:00 p.m., a registered nurse
began triaging Plaintiff but was unable to complete her evaluation because
Plaintiff was [redacted]. (Sidhu Decl. ¶ 6; see Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 18-19).
Approximately ten minutes later, the nurse summoned Dr. Sidhu for
assistance. (See Sidhu Decl. ¶ 7; Sidhu Dep. 34:18-22). Dr. Sidhu then
evaluated Plaintiff and found him to be [redacted] such that he was “physically
intimidating and threatening.” (Sidhu Decl. ¶ 8). Dr. Sidhu therefore spent 20
minutes attempting to calm Plaintiff through verbal de-escalation, offering oral
medication, and a time-out period, all of which Plaintiff refused. (See Fischer
Decl., Ex. N, at 34; Sidhu Dep. 51:5-13).
After exhausting these less intrusive techniques, Dr. Sidhu directed the
staff to [redacted] in order to calm Plaintiff and prevent him from injuring
himself or others. (See Sidhu Decl. ¶ 14; Sidhu Dep. 57:2-58:23). Despite Dr.
Sidhu’s efforts to pacify Plaintiff, he remained “combative and restless” for
approximately one hour after their administration. (Sidhu Decl. ¶ 15; see
Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 46). Once these behaviors subsided, Dr. Sidhu
[redacted]. (See Sidhu Decl. ¶ 16; Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 34). Dr. Sidhu later
testified that his decision to order Plaintiff’s restraint and medication was
“based only on his condition and conduct in the Emergency Department at
[Saint Francis].” (Sidhu Decl. ¶ 17). And although Dr. Sidhu was aware of Dr.
Barden’s determination that Plaintiff was mentally ill and dangerous, Dr. Sidhu
“did not rely solely upon [that] information” in arriving at his decision. (Id. at ¶
18). Ultimately, Dr. Sidhu cleared Plaintiff to receive psychiatric treatment at
Saint Francis. (See Sidhu Dep. 88:14-17).
Plaintiff’s version of events casts Dr. Sidhu as much less methodical.
According to Plaintiff, he initially met with a nurse at Saint Francis who
summoned Dr. Sidhu; the nurse then returned with a needle in hand along
with the doctor and two security guards. (See Pl. Aff. ¶ 38). As opposed to Dr.
Sidhu’s claimed efforts to calm Plaintiff, Plaintiff contends his sole interaction
with Dr. Sidhu was the latter saying something Plaintiff found confusing, to
which Plaintiff responded, “you don’t have to thought police me.” (Id.). Dr.
Sidhu then “stuck his thumb up in the air and said to the nurse and security
staff that they could give [Plaintiff] the injection.” (Id.). The nurse and security
guards then restrained and medicated Plaintiff. (See id. at ¶ 40). 9
Dr. Singh’s Psychiatric Evaluation
Plaintiff’s next relevant encounter with Saint Francis personnel was with
Defendant Sukhminder Singh, M.D., who worked as a staff psychiatrist. (See
Singh Dep. 10:5-8). At 4:19 p.m., Dr. Singh performed a psychiatric evaluation
of Plaintiff to evaluate the need for Plaintiff’s immediate hospitalization. (See
id. at 49:25-50:9; Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 11-12). Dr. Singh’s evaluation notes
Plaintiff’s testimony is unclear as to whether he was restrained before or after receiving
medication: during his deposition, Plaintiff testified that the nurse medicated him after
he was restrained, but his affidavit states that he was medicated before he was
restrained. (Compare Pl. Dep. 165:1-9, with Pl. Aff. ¶¶ 38, 40, 42). See generally Mack
v. United States, 814 F.2d 120, 124-25 (2d Cir. 1987) (“It is well settled in [the Second]
[C]ircuit that a party’s affidavit which contradicts his own prior deposition testimony
should be disregarded on a motion for summary judgment.”).
reflect his assessments of Plaintiff’s immediate, personal, and past medical
histories, including [redacted]. (Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 11). Dr. Singh also
reported that Plaintiff was [redacted]. (Id.). Concluding his evaluation, Dr.
Singh diagnosed Plaintiff with [redacted] and ordered his involuntary admission
to the care of Defendant Michael Susco, M.D., thereby confirming Dr. Barden’s
initial MHL § 9.37 determination. (Id. at 11-12; see Saint Francis 56.1 ¶ 238).
Dr. Singh estimated that his meeting with Plaintiff lasted approximately 45
minutes. (See Singh Dep. 68:18-21).
In stark contrast, Plaintiff claims he never met with Dr. Singh on
October 22, 2009. (See Pl. Dep. 200:25-201:4). Instead, Plaintiff asserts he
only saw Dr. Singh from afar in another office at Saint Francis, and that
Plaintiff recognized Dr. Singh from previous interactions at HRPC, where
Plaintiff had been a patient and Dr. Singh had been an employee. (See id. at
200:1-201:8; Pl. Aff. ¶ 45; Singh Dep. 7:13-25).
Dr. Susco’s Psychological Evaluation
In 2009, Defendant Michael Susco, M.D., worked at Saint Francis as the
Director of Behavioral Health Services and an attending psychiatric physician.
(See Susco Dep. 5:19-23). On October 22, 2009, Dr. Susco became Plaintiff’s
treating physician in order to determine, within 72 hours of admission,
whether Saint Francis should continue to retain Plaintiff. (Susco Decl. ¶ 4).
On that same date, Dr. Susco learned of the events culminating in Dr. Barden’s
MHL § 9.37 application. (See Susco Decl. ¶ 7). Dr. Susco was also familiar
with Plaintiff — and, by extension, with Plaintiff’s pattern of [redacted]. (Id. at
During the two days following Plaintiff’s admission at Saint Francis, Dr.
Susco observed and interacted with Plaintiff. (Susco Decl. ¶¶ 28-29). Dr.
Susco noted that during this time, Plaintiff was “[redacted], pacing, dismissive
of attempts to ask him questions, [redacted], [and] refusing vital signs by the
technicians,” and, further, that Plaintiff “isolated himself from the other
patients in a manner as if he thought he was superior to them.” (Id. at ¶ 29).
Dr. Susco later learned that Plaintiff required [redacted] upon his admission to
Saint Francis. (See id. at ¶ 8).
The day following Plaintiff’s admission to Saint Francis, a social worker
completed a psychological assessment of Plaintiff. (See Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at
30-31). The assessment notes that Plaintiff [redacted]. (Saint Francis 56.1
¶ 246). On that same date, a nurse noted that Plaintiff “frequently required
redirection away from the nurse’s station due to [redacted] … [and] was
[redacted],” and refused [redacted]. (Id. at ¶ 249). An occupational therapist
also noted that Plaintiff [redacted]. (Id. at ¶ 250). That evening, Plaintiff
“remained [redacted],” while he continued to “den[y] psychiatric problems.” (Id.
at ¶ 251).
On October 24, 2009, Plaintiff continued to [redacted]. (St. Francis 56.1
¶ 252). Plaintiff’s notation charts indicate that he [redacted] from October 22
through October 26. (See Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 108). In addition, Plaintiff
refused to allow Saint Francis staff members to assess his vital signs from
October 23 until the evening of October 26. (Id. at 87-89).
Also on October 24, Dr. Susco met with Plaintiff to determine whether he
required further hospitalization and reviewed Plaintiff’s admission records in
preparation for that meeting. (See Susco Decl. ¶¶ 31, 32). During his
evaluation, Dr. Susco noted Plaintiff’s [redacted]. (Id. at ¶ 33). Dr. Susco also
observed that Plaintiff [redacted]. (Id.). Based on this interaction, a review of
Plaintiff’s medical history, observations of Plaintiff, and his professional
psychiatric judgment, Dr. Susco found that Plaintiff [redacted] “posed a
substantial threat of harm to self or others” and required further involuntary
hospitalization. (Id. at ¶ 32; see id. at ¶ 36).
Given his assessment, Dr. Susco completed a form pursuant to MHL
§ 9.37, certifying his decision that Plaintiff required further hospitalization.
(See Saint Francis 56.1 ¶ 265). The certification form noted that pertinent
factors underlying Dr. Susco’s decision consisted of “[redacted].” (Id. at ¶ 266).
Dr. Susco also diagnosed Plaintiff [redacted] and noted Plaintiff’s tendency to
harm others. (See id. at ¶ 269).
Plaintiff characterizes his interaction with Dr. Susco in much different
terms. Although Plaintiff admits to meeting with Dr. Susco on October 24, he
asserts that during their meeting, “Dr. Susco did not conduct a psychiatric
evaluation of me in which he asked me how I was feeling, what my medications
were[,] and what brought me to the hospital.” (Pl. Aff. ¶ 48). Instead, the
meeting lasted “no more than five minutes,” during which Plaintiff “simply
asked for [his] immediate discharge and Dr. Susco said no.” (Id.)
In any event, on November 5, 2009, Dr. Susco determined that Plaintiff’s
condition improved enough to warrant his discharge and referral to outpatient
treatment. (See Susco Decl. ¶ 38; Pl. Aff. ¶ 51). According to Dr. Susco, by
that date, Plaintiff was more compliant with treatment, less symptomatic,
showed stable vital signs, and took better care of himself. (See Susco Decl.
Plaintiff filed the initial complaint in this action on February 10, 2012.
(Dkt. #2). It named as defendants Drs. Barden, Singh, Susco, and Sidhu, as
well as Saint Francis and a John Doe Defendant, and it contained claims under
federal law for (i) violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against
Defendants Barden, Susco, Sidhu, and Doe; and (ii) a violation of Section 504
of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, against Defendant Saint Francis.
(Id. at 14-17). It also contained pendent claims under state law for medical
malpractice against all Defendants but Dr. Susco. (Id. at 17).
On October 19, 2012, Plaintiff amended his complaint to remove John
Doe as a Defendant and to add claims against Dr. Singh for (i) violations of the
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and (ii) medical malpractice. (Dkt. #28,
On November 2, 2016, the parties stipulated to a dismissal of the
medical malpractice claim against Dr. Singh. (Dkt. #118). On November 17,
2016, Defendants Saint Francis, Dr. Sidhu, and Dr. Susco jointly moved for
summary judgment on Plaintiff’s remaining claims. (Dkt. #122). Also on
November 17, Dr. Barden and Dr. Singh filed separate motions for summary
judgment. (Dkt. #125, 128). On January 11, 2017, Plaintiff opposed
Defendants’ motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. #142-47). In Plaintiff’s
opposition papers, he conceded that Second Circuit precedent, published after
he filed the Amended Complaint, forecloses his Rehabilitation Act claim. (See
Dkt. #144, at 1 (citing McGugan v. Aldana-Bernier, 752 F.3d 224, 231-34 (2d
Cir. 2014)). 10 Defendants thereafter replied to Plaintiff’s opposition papers,
and summary judgment briefing closed on March 17, 2017, when the Court
denied Plaintiff’s request to file a sur-reply. (Dkt. #163).
On September 22, 2017, the Court filed an unredacted copy of this
Opinion under seal. On that same day, the Court provided the parties with a
copy of the unredacted Opinion and allowed the parties to propose redactions.
Pursuant to the Court’s directions, the parties will file their materials publicly
by October 23, 2017, with certain limited categories of information redacted in
accordance with Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110 (2d Cir.
2006). The Court will then file the redacted Opinion publicly. The Court now
considers the pending motions for summary judgment.
Given Plaintiff’s concession on this claim, Plaintiff’s Sixth Cause of Action is hereby
dismissed with prejudice.
Summary Judgment Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56
Rule 56(a) provides that a “court shall grant summary judgment if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see
also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). 11 A genuine dispute exists where
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co. v. Great Am. Ins. Co. of N.Y., 822
F.3d 620, 631 n.12 (2d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
While the moving party “bears the initial burden of demonstrating ‘the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact,’” ICC Chem. Corp. v. Nordic Tankers
Trading a/s, 186 F. Supp. 3d 296, 301 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (quoting Catrett, 477
U.S. at 323), the party opposing summary judgment “must do more than
The Court is aware that the 2010 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
revised the summary judgment standard from a genuine “issue” of material fact to a
genuine “dispute” of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, advisory comm. notes (2010
Amendments) (noting that the amendment to “[s]ubdivision (a) ... chang[es] only one
word — genuine ‘issue’ becomes genuine ‘dispute.’ ‘Dispute’ better reflects the focus of a
summary-judgment determination.”). As of this past year, the Second Circuit continues
to use both formulations. Compare, e.g., Smith v. Barnesandnoble.com, LLC, 839 F.3d
163, 166 (2d Cir. 2016) (“The moving party bears the burden to demonstrate the
absence of any genuine issues of material fact[.]”), with, e.g., Harris v. Miller, 818 F.3d
49, 53 (2d Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (“[W]e conclude that there are genuine disputes of
material fact[.]”). Indeed, the Circuit sometimes uses the terms interchangeably within
the same decision. Compare, e.g., Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841
F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016) (“[T]here is a genuine dispute of material fact[.]”), with,
e.g., id. at 168 (“We therefore think that [the nonmovant] has raised a genuine issue of
material fact[.]”). The Court at times relies on the traditional phrasing in this Opinion.
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see
also Brown v. Henderson, 257 F.3d 246, 252 (2d Cir. 2001). Rather, the
non-moving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.” Parks Real Estate Purchasing Grp. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins.
Co., 472 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).
“When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the district court must
construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the
movant.” Dallas Aerospace, Inc. v. CIS Air Corp., 352 F.3d 775, 780 (2d Cir.
2003). In considering “what may reasonably be inferred” from witness
testimony, however, the court should not accord the non-moving party the
benefit of “unreasonable inferences, or inferences at war with undisputed
facts.” Berk v. St. Vincent’s Hosp. & Med. Ctr., 380 F. Supp. 2d 334, 342
(S.D.N.Y. 2005) (quoting County of Suffolk v. Long Island Lighting Co., 907 F.2d
1295, 1318 (2d Cir. 1990)). Moreover, “[t]hough [the Court] must accept as
true the allegations of the party defending against the summary judgment
motion, … conclusory statements, conjecture, or speculation by the party
resisting the motion will not defeat summary judgment.” Kulak v. City of N.Y.,
88 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citation omitted) (citing Matsushita, 475
U.S. at 587; Wyler v. United States, 725 F.2d 156, 160 (2d Cir. 1983)); accord
Hicks v. Baines, 593 F.3d 159, 166 (2d Cir. 2010).
Plaintiff’s Constitutional Claims Fail
Plaintiff sources his constitutional claims to the Fourth Amendment’s
prohibition on unreasonable seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to
due process. 12 By virtue of his involuntary hospitalization, Plaintiff was, no
doubt, “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, see Glass v.
Mayas, 984 F.2d 55, 58 (2d Cir. 1993), and he had a right to be free from
unwelcome medical treatment, see Green v. City of N.Y., 465 F.3d 65, 84-85 (2d
Cir. 2006) (quoting Cruzan v. Dir., Mo. Dep’t of Health, 497 U.S. 261, 278-79
(1990)). Nevertheless, as the Court explains below, Drs. Singh, Susco, and
Sidhu, and Saint Francis (collectively, the “Saint Francis Defendants”) cannot
be considered state actors, while Dr. Barden, a conceded state actor, is entitled
to qualified immunity from Plaintiff’s constitutional claims.
The New York Mental Hygiene Law
At issue is Section 9.37 of New York’s Mental Hygiene Law, which
provides in relevant part:
(a) The director of a hospital, upon application by a
director of community services or an examining
Specifically, Plaintiff’s First Cause of Action alleges that Dr. Barden violated the
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by applying for Plaintiff’s hospitalization without
a finding of dangerousness; the Second Cause of Action alleges that Dr. Singh and Dr.
Susco violated the Fourteenth Amendment by authorizing Plaintiff’s hospitalization
without a finding of dangerousness; the Third Cause of Action alleges that Dr. Singh
violated the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of
Plaintiff; the Fourth Cause of Action alleges that Dr. Susco violated the Fourteenth
Amendment by conducting a psychiatric evaluation of Plaintiff that would not
accurately estimate the degree of risk Plaintiff presented; the Fifth Cause of Action
alleges that Dr. Barden violated the Fourteenth Amendment by applying for Plaintiff’s
hospitalization without finding that Plaintiff engaged in homicidal or other violent
behavior; and the Seventh Cause of Action alleges that Dr. Sidhu violated the
Fourteenth Amendment by authorizing the restraint and medication of Plaintiff when
he was not creating an emergency at Saint Francis.
physician duly designated by him or her, may receive
and care for in such hospital as a patient any person
who, in the opinion of the director of community
services or the director’s designee, has a mental illness
for which immediate inpatient care and treatment in a
hospital is appropriate and which is likely to result in
serious harm to himself or herself or others.
The need for immediate hospitalization shall be
confirmed by a staff physician of the hospital prior to
Within seventy-two hours, excluding
Sunday and holidays, after such admission, if such
patient is to be retained for care and treatment beyond
such time and he or she does not agree to remain in
such hospital as a voluntary patient, the certificate of
another examining physician who is a member of the
psychiatric staff of the hospital that the patient is in
need of involuntary care and treatment shall be filed
with the hospital. From the time of his or her
admission under this section the retention of such
patient for care and treatment shall be subject to the
provisions for notice, hearing, review, and judicial
approval of continued retention or transfer and
continued retention provided by this article for the
admission and retention of involuntary patients,
provided that, for the purposes of such provisions, the
date of admission of the patient shall be deemed to be
the date when the patient was first received in the
hospital under this section.
(b) The application for admission of a patient pursuant
to this section shall be based upon a personal
examination by a director of community services or his
designee. It shall be in writing and shall be filed with
the director of such hospital at the time of the patient’s
reception, together with a statement in a form
prescribed by the commissioner giving such information
as he may deem appropriate.
(d) After signing the application, the director of
community services or the director’s designee shall be
authorized and empowered to take into custody, detain,
transport, and provide temporary care for any such
person. Upon the written request of such director or
the director’s designee it shall be the duty of peace
officers, when acting pursuant to their special duties, or
police officers who are members of the state police or of
an authorized police department or force or of a sheriff’s
department to take into custody and transport any such
person as requested and directed by such director or
designee. Upon the written request of such director or
designee, an ambulance service, as defined in
subdivision two of section three thousand one of the
public health law, is authorized to transport any such
MHL § 9.37. In this setting, “likely to result in serious harm”
means (a) a substantial risk of physical harm to the
person as manifested by threats of or attempts at
suicide or serious bodily harm or other conduct
demonstrating that the person is dangerous to himself
or herself, or (b) a substantial risk of physical harm to
other persons as manifested by homicidal or other
violent behavior by which others are placed in
reasonable fear of serious physical harm.
Id. § 9.01. 13
The Elements of a Section 1983 Claim
Section 1983 provides a remedy when a state actor deprives a plaintiff of
federally protected rights, including rights provided by the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also City of Okla. City v.
Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985) (“By its terms, of course, [§ 1983] creates no
substantive rights; it merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights
established elsewhere.”). “The purpose of § 1983 is to deter state actors from
Plaintiff focuses on an amendment to MHL § 9.37 that defines “likelihood of serious
harm” to include “a substantial risk of physical harm to other persons as manifested by
homicidal or other violent behavior by which others are placed in reasonable fear or
serious physical harm.” MHL § 9.37(a)(2) (emphasis added). Among other things,
Plaintiff contends that the italicized word should in fact be “of.” (See, e.g., Pl. Opp. 1
n.1). However, the statute makes clear that this amendment is not effective until July
1, 2020, and the Court will therefore rely on the definition contained in MHL § 9.01.
using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally
guaranteed rights and to provide relief to victims if such deterrence fails.”
Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992).
“A § 1983 claim has two essential elements: [i] the defendant acted under
color of state law; and [ii] as a result of the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff
suffered a denial of h[is] federal statutory rights, or h[is] constitutional rights or
privileges.” Annis v. Cty. of Westchester, 136 F.3d 239, 245 (2d Cir. 1998); see
also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436
U.S. 149, 155-56 (1978)). Even where these two elements are satisfied, “[t]he
doctrine of qualified immunity shields officials from civil liability so long as
their conduct ‘does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.’” Mullenix v. Luna, 136
S. Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (per curiam) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223,
The Saint Francis Defendants Were Not State Actors
Because constitutional protections constrain only government actors, a
plaintiff pursuing a § 1983 claim must show in the first instance that the
alleged constitutional violation constitutes state action. See Fabrikant v.
French, 691 F.3d 193, 206 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Flagg v. Yonkers Sav. & Loan
Ass’n, 396 F.3d 178, 186 (2d Cir. 2005); Tancredi v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 316
F.3d 308, 312 (2d Cir. 2003)). That said, private parties may engage in state
action if their behavior is “fairly treated as that of the State itself.” Brentwood
Acad. v. Tenn. Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass’n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2001) (quoting
Jackson v. Metro. Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 351 (1974)). Such private conduct
becomes state action if (i) “the State compelled the conduct [the ‘compulsion
test’],” (ii) “there is a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the private
conduct [the ‘close nexus test’ or ‘joint action test’],” or (iii) “the private conduct
consisted of activity that has traditionally been the exclusive prerogative of the
State [the ‘public function test’].” McGugan v. Aldana-Bernier, 752 F.3d 224,
229 (2d Cir. 2014) (alterations in original) (quoting Hogan v. A.O. Fox Mem’l
Hosp., 346 F. App’x 627, 629 (2d Cir. 2009) (summary order)).
While considering the issue of state action in the context of involuntary
hospitalization, this Court does not write on a blank slate. In Doe v.
Rosenberg, the Second Circuit upheld the reasoning behind a district court’s
summary judgment award against a § 1983 plaintiff who alleged constitutional
violations at the hands of her private physician and a private hospital and
several of its employees. See 166 F.3d 507 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam). The
district court had concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish state action
under any of the three tests outlined above. First, the plaintiff failed to satisfy
the compulsion test because the statute under which she was hospitalized,
MHL § 9.27, “by its terms is permissive, not mandatory,” given its provision
that a “director of a hospital may” hospitalize a patient under certain
conditions, thus providing discretion to an evaluating physician. Doe v.
Rosenberg, 996 F. Supp. 343, 349-50 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (quoting MHL § 9.27),
aff’d, 166 F.3d 507. Second, the private hospital’s contract with OMH allowing
it to operate a psychiatric practice, and its OMH license to serve as a primary
psychiatric emergency care provider, were insufficient to satisfy the
close-nexus test because “the mere fact that a business is subject to state
regulation does not by itself convert its action into that of the State … [n]or
does the fact that the regulation is extensive and detailed[.]” Id. at 352 (quoting
Jackson, 419 U.S. at 350). Third and finally, the hospitalization authority that
the MHL bestows on hospitals and physicians is not the sort of power
traditionally reserved for the State because “[t]he responsibility for invalid
commitment lies with the physician as a private individual,” and thus fails to
satisfy the public-function test. Id. at 353.
More recently, in McGugan v. Aldana-Bernier, the Second Circuit affirmed
the dismissal of a § 1983 claim alleging constitutional violations in the form of
forced medication and hospitalization both while and after police transported
the plaintiff to a private hospital that received federal funds and was licensed
by OMH to provide psychiatric treatment. 752 F.3d at 227-28. After the
plaintiff was hospitalized, two doctors had separately certified her as suffering
from a mental illness likely to result in substantial harm to herself or others
and determined to hospitalize her further pursuant to MHL § 9.39, which
pertains to emergency admission of patients for immediate observation, care,
and treatment. Id. at 228. Finding no meaningful differentiation from
Rosenberg, the Court ruled that these doctors were not state actors, because
although “the state endowed [the doctors] with the authority to involuntarily
hospitalize (and medicate) the plaintiff, … it did not compel them to do so.” Id.
So too here. While Plaintiff portrays the physicians at Saint Francis as
summarily confirming Dr. Barden’s initial application, his unsupported
assertions are plainly insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact.
See Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir.
1995) (“[T]he plaintiff cannot meet this burden through reliance on
unsupported assertions. Once the moving party has made a properly
supported showing sufficient to suggest the absence of any genuine issue as to
a material fact, the nonmoving party … must come forward with evidence that
would be sufficient to support a jury verdict in his favor.”). More
fundamentally, the record makes clear that the Saint Francis Defendants fail to
qualify as state actors under any of the three tests set forth by the Supreme
Plaintiff Cannot Satisfy the Compulsion Test
Under the compulsion test, private behavior becomes state action if “it
results from the State’s exercise of ‘coercive power,’” or “the State provides
‘significant encouragement, either overt or covert.’” Brentwood Acad., 531 U.S.
at 296 (quoting Blum v. Yaretski, 457 U.S. 991, 1004 (1982)); see also Doe v.
Harrison, 254 F. Supp. 2d 338, 342 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). MHL § 9.37 does not
require a physician responding to an application thereunder to hospitalize the
patient subject to the referral; rather, it provides that “an examining
physician … may receive and care for” such individual. MHL § 9.37 (emphasis
added); cf. Rosenberg, 996 F. Supp. at 349-50 (finding no State compulsion
under § 9.27 because the provision stated that hospital director “may”
hospitalize patient under certain conditions). Drs. Singh and Susco thus
certified Plaintiff’s need for further hospitalization independent of any state
power, and although MHL § 9.37 required them to evaluate Plaintiff after Dr.
Barden’s application, it did not preordain the outcome of their evaluations. See
Blum, 457 U.S. at 1006-07 (“We cannot say that the State, by requiring
completion of a form, is responsible for the physician’s decision.”).
Dr. Sidhu, who conducted a preliminary evaluation of Plaintiff to
determine whether his underlying behavior was psychiatric or medical — an
assessment independent of MHL § 9.37’s requirements — was even further
removed from the power of the State. Indeed, he was operating wholly at the
directive of Saint Francis’s policies rather than those of the State. See Sybalski
v. Indep. Grp. Home Living Program, Inc., 546 F.3d 255, 257-58 (2d Cir. 2008)
(state action requires more than “state involvement in ‘some activity of the
institution alleged to have inflicted injury upon a plaintiff,’” and instead
requires “that the state was involved ‘with the activity that caused the injury’
giving rise to the action.” (emphases in original) (quoting Schlein v. Milford
Hosp., Inc., 561 F.2d 427, 428 (2d Cir. 1977) (per curiam)). The State therefore
did not compel any of the Saint Francis Defendants’ decisions.
Plaintiff Cannot Satisfy the Close-Nexus or
Plaintiff’s state-action arguments focus on the close-nexus or joint-action
test. A plaintiff satisfies this test by establishing “a sufficiently close nexus
between the State and the challenged action of the [private] regulated entity so
that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.”
Rosenberg, 996 F. Supp. at 349 (alteration in original) (quoting Blum, 457 U.S.
at 1004). To meet this standard, the State must “so far insinuate itself into a
position of interdependence with the [private party] that it was a joint
participant in the enterprise.” Turturro v. Cont’l Airlines, 334 F. Supp. 2d 383,
396 (S.D.N.Y 2004) (quoting Rosenberg, 334 F. Supp. at 352). The Supreme
Court views this test as assurance that courts will hold private parties to
constitutional standards only if “the State is responsible for the specific
conduct of which the plaintiff complains.” Blum, 457 U.S. at 1004.
In Blum v. Yaretsky, the Supreme Court held that private physicians and
nursing home administrators who transferred or discharged elderly Medicaid
recipients to lower levels of care were not state actors, despite the fact that the
State responded to such decisions by adjusting the recipients’ benefits. 457
U.S. at 1005. The Court reasoned that although regulations required the
physicians to complete certain forms to obtain benefits and required the
nursing homes to place patients at an appropriate level of care, “[t]hese
regulations [did] not require the nursing homes to rely on the forms in making
discharge or transfer decisions, nor [did] they demonstrate that the State [was]
responsible for the decision to transfer particular patients.” Id. at 1006-08.
Indeed, “[t]hose decisions ultimately turn[ed] on medical judgments made by
private parties according to professional standards that are not established by
the State.” Id. at 1008.
Plaintiff argues that under MHL § 9.37, the physicians at Saint Francis
could not have hospitalized him absent the certification of Dr. Barden — clearly
a state actor — and thus the private physicians’ subsequent determinations
became those of the State. (See Pl. Opp. 21-22). In Plaintiff’s view, any private
physician confirming a hospitalization under MHL § 9.37 becomes a state actor
by virtue of the requisite initial application by the director of community
services. This argument paints with too broad a brush, and, indeed, runs afoul
of the fact-intensive analysis required in determining when private conduct
crosses over into state action. See Burton v. Wilmington Parking Auth., 365
U.S. 715, 722 (1961) (“Only by sifting facts and weighing circumstances can
the nonobvious involvement of the State in private conduct be attributed its
true significance.”); Int’l Soc. For Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Air Can., 727
F.2d 253, 255 (2d Cir. 1984). Moreover, although MHL § 9.37 by its terms
involves state actors, the ultimate determination of whether to hospitalize a
patient falls on the medical judgments of private physicians applying standards
that the State has no part in instituting. See Turturro, 334 F. Supp. 2d at
Plaintiff next seeks refuge in several recent district court cases that have
found state action on the part of private physicians who acted merely as
“rubber stamps” to state actors’ hospitalization determinations pursuant to
MHL § 9.37. (See Pl. Opp. 22-23). To discuss these cases, however, is to
distinguish them from the instant case. In Tewksbury v. Dowling, 169 F.
Supp. 2d 103 (E.D.N.Y. 2001), for instance, the district court, ruling on the
defendant physicians’ summary judgment motion, held that private physicians
employed by a private hospital “jointly participated with state officials” by
hospitalizing the plaintiff under MHL § 9.37 based solely on a phone call
communicating the state officials’ determination that the plaintiff required
hospitalization. Id. at 110. Other private physicians also certified the plaintiff
for further hospitalization in reliance on information obtained from state
officials. Id. The court cautioned, however, that “if the decision to commit [the
plaintiff] was based purely on their own independent medical judgment,” the
physicians would not have been state actors. Id. at 109.
The court in Bryant v. Steele, 93 F. Supp. 3d 80 (E.D.N.Y. 2015), reached
a similar conclusion. There, the district court upheld the sufficiency of a
complaint alleging that after a state actor submitted an MHL § 9.37 application
to a private hospital, the hospital confirmed the plaintiff’s need for
hospitalization “without conducting an independent medical examination.” Id.
at 90. The court also relied on Tewksbury to point out that the private
physicians could not have hospitalized the plaintiff under MHL § 9.37 without
an initial application from a state actor. See id. at 92 (quoting Tewksbury, 169
F. Supp. 2d at 110).
Plaintiff here has failed to establish that Dr. Barden was “so far
insinuated” with the Saint Francis Defendants that their determinations were
interdependent. Turturro, 334 F. Supp. 2d at 396. To begin, Dr. Sidhu testified
that although he was aware of Dr. Barden’s determination, his decision to
restrain and medicate Plaintiff was “based only on [Plaintiff’s] condition and
conduct” at Saint Francis. (Sidhu Decl. ¶¶ 16-17). And medical records that
he and a treating nurse completed on October 22 corroborate Dr. Sidhu’s
characterization of Plaintiff’s condition. (See Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 18-19, 34,
46). But more importantly, as discussed above, Dr. Sidhu played no role in the
hospitalization procedure that MHL § 9.37 establishes.
The record belies Plaintiff’s bald assertion that he never received a
face-to-face evaluation from Dr. Singh and fails to create a triable issue of
material fact as to Dr. Singh’s independent medical evaluation. Aside from Dr.
Singh’s testimony that he evaluated Plaintiff for approximately 45 minutes, his
evaluation notes contain statements such as “patient denies,” “patient states,”
and “[patient] reports,” indicating a live interaction with Plaintiff, and it also
includes information not otherwise available in Plaintiff’s medical records. (See
Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 11; see, e.g., id. (“[Plaintiff] reports that right now he is
also attending college on-line.”)). Moreover, his notes indicate a time of
dictation at 4:19 p.m. (see id. at 12; Singh Reply Decl., ¶ 11), and a nurse’s
note states that Dr. Singh evaluated Plaintiff at approximately 3:30 p.m. on
October 22 (see Fischer Decl., Ex. N, at 17; Slocum Decl.), which coincides
with Dr. Singh’s estimated 45-minute evaluation.
As to Dr. Susco, Plaintiff does not deny meeting with him on October 24,
2009, and receiving a psychiatric evaluation at the time, but instead complains
about the subject matter of that meeting. (See Pl. Aff. ¶ 48). Although Dr.
Susco performed this evaluation two days after Plaintiff’s initial admission to
Saint Francis, this is exactly the procedure that MHL § 9.37 contemplates. See
MHL § 9.37(a). Furthermore, Plaintiff does not deny and presents no evidence
contradicting Dr. Susco’s observations of and interactions with Plaintiff during
the two preceding days.
Thus, while treating and evaluating Plaintiff, the Saint Francis
Defendants primarily utilized independent medical judgment, thereby
separating themselves from the preceding state action on the part of Dr.
Barden. See Blum, 457 U.S. at 1006-08; cf. Bryant, 93 F. Supp. 3d at 90-91
(holding plaintiff sufficiently pled state action by alleging that private
physicians admitted plaintiff “upon the assessment of … a state actor without
conducting an independent medical examination”); Tewksbury, 169 F. Supp.
2d at 109 (finding state action where plaintiff was admitted to private hospital
after government referral “without any independent examination”). To be sure,
the Saint Francis Defendants readily admit their cognizance of the events
leading up to Plaintiff’s hospitalization as well as Dr. Barden’s evaluation. But
“mere ‘[c]ommunications,’ even regular ones, ‘between a private and a state
actor, without facts supporting a concerted effort or plan between the parties,
are insufficient to make the private party a state actor.” Bryant, 93 F. Supp.
3d at 91 (quoting Fisk v. Letterman, 401 F. Supp. 2d 362, 377 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)).
Lastly, Plaintiff argues that Saint Francis acted on the State’s behalf
because “the [S]tate has outsourced its commitment authority to [Saint]
Francis as it was the only provider of inpatient psychiatric services in Dutchess
County.” (Pl. Opp. 24). In raising this argument, Plaintiff relies on Rhee v.
Good Samaritan Hospital, where the district court refused to dismiss a § 1983
claim based on the plaintiff’s hospitalization, reasoning in part that under West
v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988), the plaintiff’s allegation that a state-affiliated
hospital “‘outsourced’ its commitment decisions to [a private hospital],” could
suffice for state action depending on the contractual relationship between the
State and the hospital. See No. 12 Civ. 8508 (NSR), 2015 WL 1501460, at *6-7
(S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2015). 14
Plaintiff can point to no similar contractual relationship between the
State and Saint Francis or any of its physicians. Undeterred, Plaintiff argues
the State has delegated its commitment authority to Saint Francis by virtue of
the hospital’s position as the only provider of inpatient psychiatric services in
Dutchess County. Even so, Plaintiff has brought forth no facts that so much
as hint that the State had anything to do with this position. Cf. West, 487 U.S.
at 55 (“Under state law, the only medical care [plaintiff] could receive … was
that provided by the State.”); Rhee, 2015 WL 1501460, at *6-7. Plaintiff thus
fails to raise a genuine dispute of fact that the State was in any way
responsible for the decisions of Plaintiff’s treating physicians. See Schlein, 561
F.2d at 429 (“Even assuming … that the Hospital occupies a monopoly position
In West v. Atkins, the Supreme Court held that a physician who, under contract with
the State, provided medical services to inmates at a state prison hospital on a part-time
basis was a state actor. See 487 U.S. 42, 54-55 (1988). The Court reasoned that the
State “employ[ed] physicians … and defer[red] to their professional judgment, in order
to fulfill” its constitutional obligation under the Eighth Amendment to provide prisoners
medical care, and “[b]y virtue of this relationship, effected by state law, [the physician
was] authorized and obliged to treat prison inmates,” such as the plaintiff, and did so
“clothed with the authority of state law.” Id. at 55 (quoting United States v. Classic, 313
U.S. 299, 326 (1941)).
in the [relevant geographical] area … such status is not determinative of state
action.” (citing Jackson, 419 U.S at 351-52)).
Plaintiff Cannot Satisfy the Public-Function Test
Although Plaintiff does not expressly invoke the public-function test, the
Court nevertheless addresses it for completeness. Under this test, a private
party becomes a state actor “where the State delegates its responsibilities to
[the] private part[y] and then attempts to escape liability for constitutional
violations caused by private parties acting pursuant to the delegation.”
Rosenberg, 996 F. Supp. at 353 (citing Rockwell v. Cape Cod Hosp., 26 F.3d
254, 258 (1st Cir. 1994)). The analysis thus turns on whether the private
party’s alleged constitutional violation occurred while exercising authority that
is “traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the State.” Rendell-Baker v. Kohn,
457 U.S. 830, 842 (1982) (emphasis removed) (quoting Jackson, 419 U.S. at
353). The Second Circuit has recognized that private hospitals, though “clearly
‘affected with a public interest,’ … have not been ‘traditionally associated with
sovereignty,’ and have long been relegated to the private domain, rather than
treated as ‘traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the State.’” Schlein, 561
F.2d at 429 (quoting Jackson, 419 U.S. at 353)). Thus, in the absence of any
evidence to the contrary, the Court shall assume the same in the more specific
context of involuntary hospitalizations. See Turturro, 334 F. Supp. 2d at
In sum, Plaintiff has failed to establish that Dr. Singh, Dr. Sidhu, Dr.
Susco, or Saint Francis acted at the behest of the State in a sense that would
render them subject to constitutional scrutiny. The Court therefore dismisses
with prejudice Plaintiff’s Second, Third, Fourth, and Seventh Causes of Action.
Dr. Barden Is Entitled to Qualified Immunity
Dr. Barden does not dispute that he is a state actor, but argues instead
that he did not violate any of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights and, alternatively,
that he is subject to qualified immunity. (Barden Br. 11-23). While Dr.
Barden’s arguments opposing Plaintiff’s claims of Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment violations have considerable traction, his qualified immunity
arguments are plainly correct and require summary judgment in his favor.
The Defense of Qualified Immunity
“The defense of qualified immunity shields government officials
performing discretionary functions ‘from liability for civil damages insofar as
their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.’” Kerman v. City of
N.Y., 374 F.3d 93, 108 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S.
800, 818 (1982)); accord Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735 (2011). Thus,
“[w]hether qualified immunity can be invoked turns on the ‘objective legal
reasonableness’ of the official’s acts.” Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843, 1866
(2017) (quoting Harlow, 457 U.S. at 819). “And reasonableness of official
action, in turn, must be ‘assessed in light of the legal rules that were clearly
established at the time [the action] was taken.’” Id. (alteration in original)
(quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639 (1987)). At base, “qualified
immunity protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly
violate the law.’” Id. (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)).
As noted, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity “if they can
establish either that [i] ‘a constitutional right was [not] violated’ or [ii] ‘the right
was [not] clearly established.’” Royal Crown Day Care LLC v. Dep’t of Health
and Mental Hygiene of City of N.Y., 746 F.3d 538, 543 (2d Cir. 2014) (second
and fourth alterations in original) (quoting Bailey v. Pataki, 708 F.3d 391, 404
(2d Cir. 2013)). Courts undertaking this analysis “have discretion to decide the
order in which to engage these two prongs,” but they “may not resolve genuine
disputes of fact in favor of the party seeking summary judgment.” Tolan v.
Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (citations omitted).
The Right Plaintiff Asserts Was Not Clearly
“A clearly established right is one that is ‘sufficiently clear that every
reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that
right.’” Mullenix, 136 S. Ct. at 308 (quoting Reichle v. Howards, 566 U.S. 658,
132 S. Ct. 2088, 2093 (2012)). Because the rights allegedly violated may
appear abstract, “[t]he dispositive question is whether the violative nature of
particular conduct is clearly established.” Ziglar, 137 S. Ct. at 1866 (emphasis
and alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Mullenix,
136 S. Ct. at 308). “It is not necessary, of course, that ‘the very action in
question has previously been held unlawful.’” Id. (quoting Anderson, 483 U.S.
at 640). “But ‘in the light of pre-existing law,’ the unlawfulness of the officer’s
conduct ‘must be apparent.’” Id. at 1867 (quoting Anderson, 483 U.S. at 640).
Put somewhat differently, a constitutional right is clearly established if
(i) it is “defined with reasonable clarity,” (ii) “the Supreme Court or the Second
Circuit has confirmed the existence of the right,” and (iii) “a reasonable
defendant would have understood from the existing law that his conduct was
unlawful.” Bailey, 709 F.3d at 404-05 (citing Luna v. Pico, 356 F.3d 481, 490
(2d Cir. 2004)). A court’s definition of the purported right “must be
‘particularized’ in the sense that ‘[t]he contours of the right must be sufficiently
clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he [or she] is doing
violates that right.’” Golodner v. Berliner, 770 F.3d 196, 206 (2d Cir. 2014)
(first alteration in original) (quoting Anderson, 483 U.S. at 640). A court must
walk a middle course in defining the right at issue: Outline rights too broadly
and plaintiffs would be able to subvert qualified immunity merely by alleging
violations of exaggeratedly abstract rights; construe rights too narrowly and
government actors would never encounter the same right twice, thus enjoying
almost boundless immunity. See LaBounty v. Coughlin, 137 F.3d 68, 73-74 (2d
Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson, 483 U.S. at 639)).
The Supreme Court and the Second Circuit have clearly established that
the State may not involuntarily hospitalize an individual consistent with the
Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment absent a showing that the individual poses a
danger to himself or others. See O’Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U.S. 563, 576
(1975) (applying Fourteenth Amendment to involuntary commitment); Glass v.
Mayas, 984 F.2d 55, 57-58 (2d Cir. 1993) (“Because we have already concluded
that the defendants were objectively reasonable in finding [plaintiff] dangerous
in the due process context, it follows that they were objectively reasonable in
making the same determination in the Fourth Amendment context.”). In both
of these contexts, however, Plaintiff argues he was entitled to a more robust
right to be free from involuntary hospitalization “in the absence of recent
homicidal or other violent behavior.” (Pl. Opp. 17 (discussing Fourth
Amendment); see id. at 19 (arguing Dr. Barden violated Fourteenth
Amendment in failing to find “present homicidal or other violent behavior”
before applying for hospitalization (emphasis added))). This is not the law.
As an initial matter, Plaintiff derives this purported right from a faulty
reading of the Mental Hygiene Law. To be sure, MHL § 9.37 requires that a
patient subject to hospitalization have a mental illness that “is likely to result
in serious harm to himself or others,” and MHL § 9.01 defines “likely to result
in serious harm” to include “a substantial risk of physical harm to other
persons as manifested by homicidal or other violent behavior by which others
are placed in reasonable fear of serious physical harm.” But Plaintiff ascribes
undue significance to the verb “are” in arguing that Dr. Barden could only
consider recent events — none of which, Plaintiff contends, evidenced
homicidal or violent behavior. (See Pl. Opp. 13-15). Nothing in law or logic
requires medical professionals to put out of their minds all knowledge of a
patient’s past behavior, no matter how serious, in determining that patient’s
present danger to himself or others. Rather, medical professionals must be
permitted to consider that behavior when evaluating more recent conduct, in
order to contextualize the latter and, in so doing, arrive at a more accurate
assessment of the patient’s dangerousness vel non. 15
The Court has found no authority supporting Plaintiff’s foreshortened
construction of the statute. To the contrary, the Second Circuit has held that
New York’s civil commitment scheme does not offend due process even if it
requires a showing of dangerousness that does not include an “overt act”
evincing a present risk of physical harm. See Project Release v. Prevost, 722
F.2d 960, 973-74 (1983) (“[T]he New York State civil commitment scheme,
considered as a whole and as interpreted … to include a showing of
dangerousness, meets minimum due process standards without the addition of
an overt act requirement.”). Plaintiff’s failure to point to any precedent
suggesting the existence of the right he now claims is both unsurprising and
fatal to his argument. See Bailey, 709 F.3d at 404-05 (citing Luna, 356 F.3d at
Plaintiff did not enjoy as expansive a right as he contends; at the very
least, the right Plaintiff now claims was not clearly established at the time of
his October 2009 commitment. Nevertheless, Plaintiff did enjoy a
clearly-established right not to be hospitalized absent a showing of
dangerousness. The Court shall therefore consider whether Dr. Barden
The Court recognizes that a patient’s past behavior may be so different in kind, or so
distant in time, that a medical professional would obtain no insight from it in
determining the patient’s present danger to himself or others. However, this case is far
different, where the record overwhelmingly demonstrates that Plaintiff was given to
[redacted], and that a number of medical professionals with longstanding, firsthand
knowledge of Plaintiff’s behavior were aware that he was not in full compliance with his
medication protocols and was exhibiting obvious signs of [redacted].
reasonably believed that Plaintiff was dangerous when he interacted with
Plaintiff based on the information he possessed at that time. See Glass, 984
F.2d at 57. 16
Dr. Barden Acted Reasonably
A government official’s decisions “must be viewed as objectively
reasonable unless ‘no [official] of reasonable competence could have made the
same choice in similar circumstances.’” Green, 465 F.3d at 92 (quoting Lennon
v. Miller, 66 F.3d 612, 420-21 (2d Cir. 1995)). Where the facts that are relevant
to qualified immunity are not in dispute, the issue of whether a government
official acted reasonably is ripe for summary judgment. See Tierney v.
Davidson, 133 F.3d 189, 194-95 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Hunter v. Bryant, 502
U.S. 224, 227 (1991); Lennon, 66 F.3d at 422; Warren v. Dwyer, 906 F.2d 70,
76 (2d Cir. 1990)).
In Glass v. Maya, the Second Circuit considered whether a physician was
immune from Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims arising from the
physician’s forcible hospitalization of the plaintiff. See 984 F.3d at 57-58. The
court ruled that the physician acted reasonably and was thus entitled to
Plaintiff also asserts that the Court need not assess whether his purported
constitutional right was clearly established because “an exception to this rule exists
when governmental officials violate state statutory or administrative law that create[s]
the federal cause of action,” and because “[MHL §] 9.37 gives rise to a cause of action,
Dr. Barden forfeits his immunity by violating the statute.” (Pl. Opp. 21). Even
accepting Plaintiff’s statement of law as true, however, the Court need not belabor why
Plaintiff’s argument fails: MHL § 9.37 does not contain an express private right of
action, and Plaintiff has not argued, much less shown, that the Court should imply a
private right of action. See also Torres v. Faxton St. Lukes Healthcare, 227 F. Supp. 3d
216, 240 (N.D.N.Y. 2017) (“[A] finding that MHL Article 9 implies a private right of
action giving rise to liability appears to be wholly inconsistent with the intent of the
legislative scheme.” (citing Mclean v. City of N.Y., 905 N.E.2d 194, 242 (N.Y. 2009))).
qualified immunity because the physician received reports that the plaintiff
threatened another individual with a gun; exhibited “strange behavior”; was
described by those who examined him as “hostile, guarded, angry, suspicious,
uncooperative, and paranoid”; and “had an extensive psychiatric history, which
included a history of violent behavior,” multiple psychiatric hospitalizations,
“and a family history of mental illness.” Id. at 57. Additionally, the plaintiff
was “hostile and uncooperative” during every examination he received
throughout the admission process. Id.
Here, the undisputed facts establish that Dr. Barden acted reasonably in
applying for Plaintiff’s hospitalization. Before meeting with Plaintiff, Dr. Barden
received reports from Stern and ACT team members regarding Plaintiff’s hostile
and threatening behavior. (See Barden Dep. 26:19-27:14). Further, he
received word that Plaintiff was not cooperating with treatment and that
Plaintiff typically became [redacted]. (Id. at 32:16-20). Dr. Barden also
reviewed Plaintiff’s psychiatric history, which contains numerous accounts of
[redacted], regardless of Plaintiff’s controversion of certain peripheral facts
during this litigation. (Id. at 44:9-47:20). In addition, Dr. Barden was aware of
Plaintiff’s criminal history, including charges of burglary and criminal mischief.
(Id.). Regardless of current disputes regarding the veracity of this information,
it was before Dr. Barden without such disputes at the time of his assessment,
and he reasonably relied on it in making his determination. See Castro v.
United States, 34 F.3d 106, 112 (2d Cir. 1994) (“Officials are ‘entitled to
qualified immunity [when] their decision was reasonable, even if mistaken.”
(alteration in original) (quoting Hunter, 502 U.S. at 229)).
Plaintiff argues that Dr. Barden failed to conduct a formal psychiatric
evaluation of Plaintiff, thus rendering his hospitalization objectively
unreasonable. (See Pl. Opp. 18). But this argument overlooks Dr. Barden’s
thwarted attempt to evaluate Plaintiff in a more formal setting than that of
their interaction after Plaintiff’s unexpected arrival at Dr. Barden’s office. This
interaction occurred immediately after Dr. Barden received (i) a referral from
John Stern and (ii) a plethora of information regarding Plaintiff’s psychiatric
condition, rendering it a perfect opportunity for Dr. Barden to evaluate Plaintiff.
And even taking Plaintiff’s account of their interaction as true, viewed against
the informational backdrop before which Dr. Barden was then operating,
Plaintiff’s abrupt arrival and departure would have itself been bizarre and
alarming, and Dr. Barden thus did not act unreasonably in fearing for the
safety of Plaintiff, himself, and others.
The constitutional claims against Dr. Barden fail as a matter of law
because it is not at all clear that he violated Plaintiff’s rights under the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments and, at the very least, he is entitled to qualified
immunity. The Court thus dismisses with prejudice Plaintiff’s First and Fifth
Causes of Action.
The Court Declines to Exercise Supplemental Jurisdiction
Over Plaintiff’s Remaining Claims
Having dismissed Plaintiff’s federal constitutional claims, his only
remaining claims, contained in the Eighth and Ninth Counts of the First
Amended Complaint, allege medical malpractice under state law against Drs.
Barden, Susco, and Singh, and Saint Francis. The Court declines to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over these claims.
A district court has discretion to “decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction” after “dismiss[ing] all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c); see Klein & Co. Futures, Inc. v. Bd. of Trade
of City of N.Y., 464 F.3d 255, 263 (2d Cir. 2006) (“[T]he decision to retain
jurisdiction is discretionary and not a litigant’s right[.]”). In making this
determination, courts “balance the traditional ‘values of judicial economy,
convenience, fairness, and comity.’” Kolari v. N.Y.-Presbyterian Hosp., 455 F.3d
118, 122 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343,
350 (1988)). In general, “if the federal claims are dismissed before trial, … the
state claims should be dismissed as well.” United Mine Workers of Am. v.
Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966). Moreover, “[a]lthough the exercise of
supplemental jurisdiction is discretionary, the ordinary case ‘will point toward
declining jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.’” Jordan v. Chase
Manhattan Bank, 91 F. Supp. 3d 491, 511 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (quoting In re Merrill
Lynch Ltd. Partnerships Litig., 154 F.3d 56, 61 (2d Cir. 1998)).
Here, all factors weigh in favor of declining supplemental jurisdiction
over Plaintiff’s state-law claims. First, considering judicial economy, although
this case has been ongoing since 2012, Plaintiff’s remaining claims involve four
defendants and complex factual issues that may not prove amenable to
resolution by way of summary judgment. Cf. Chenensky v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co.,
942 F. Supp. 2d 388, 393 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (declining to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over state-law claims in five-year-old case). Second, refiling in
state court will present only a minor inconvenience to the parties, especially
considering the discovery they have already completed. Third, proceeding to
state court will place none of the parties at any disadvantage relative to their
current positions in this litigation. Fourth and finally, given that only state-law
issues remain in this case, comity dictates that the Court decline to decide
those disputes. Cf. Bray v. City of N.Y., 356 F. Supp. 2d 277, 287 (S.D.N.Y.
2004) (declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state claims despite
Therefore, the Court dismisses Plaintiff’s Eighth and Ninth Causes of
Action without prejudice to their refiling in state court.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendants’ motions for summary
judgment are GRANTED. Plaintiff’s First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth,
and Seventh Causes of Action are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Plaintiff’s
Eighth and Ninth Causes of Action are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate all pending motions, adjourn
all remaining dates, and close this case.
January 8, 2018
New York, New York
KATHERINE POLK FAILLA
United States District Judge
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