The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickerson, District Judge.
Plaintiff Tove dePoel brings this action against defendants
the City of New York, the New York City Health and Hospitals
Corporation, a doctor sued as John Doe, M.D., and Deva Alapati,
M.D., claiming that defendants violated her rights under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution by committing her involuntarily to a hospital
without a proper finding that her mental illness was "likely to
result in serious harm" to herself or others, by not affording
her the prompt hearing required under New York law, and by not
advising her of her potential liability for the costs of
This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
granting jurisdiction over civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States, and
28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3), granting jurisdiction over actions arising
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Defendants move to dismiss or for summary judgment pursuant
to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or 56, contending
that the plaintiff has not made out a claim for which relief
may be granted and that the action is barred by the applicable
three year statute of limitations.
Both sides have submitted proof outside the complaint, and
the court treats the motion as one for summary judgment.
Many of the facts are not in dispute.
On August 19, 1987, police officers brought plaintiff to the
Queens Hospital Center believing she was suffering from mental
illness. Plaintiff was initially examined by the doctor sued as
John Doe, M.D., whose illegible signature is on the Record of
Emergency Admission, a form issued by the State Office of
Mental Health for use for emergency admissions under § 9.39 of
the New York State Mental Hygiene Law.
Section 9.39 provides in pertinent part that "[t]he director
of any [qualified] hospital . . . may receive and retain
therein as a patient for a period of fifteen days any person
alleged to have a mental illness for which immediate
observation, care, and treatment in a hospital is appropriate
and which is likely to result in serious harm to himself or
others. . . ."
The section provides that "Likelihood to result in serious
harm" shall mean:
1. substantial risk of physical harm to himself as
manifested by threats of or attempts at suicide or
serious bodily harm or other conduct demonstrating
that he is dangerous to himself, or
2. 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.
The section also provides that the director of the hospital
shall admit the person only if a staff physician upon
examination finds the person qualifies under the section. But
the person may not be retained for more than forty-eight hours
unless the finding is confirmed by another staff psychiatrist.
The person may then be retained for fifteen days, but not
beyond that unless on a new admission on an application
supported by two new examining physicians' certificates.
The emergency admission form recites the substance of these
provisions of § 9.39, leaves a space for the admitting
physician to describe the circumstances which led to the
hospitalization, and contains a printed statement that "I have
examined the patient named above and confirm his need for
immediate observation, care and treatment for a mental illness
which is likely to result in serious harm to himself or
The doctor wrote on the form used to admit plaintiff: "Pt has
been disorganized, unkempt, grossly delusional, paranoid,
unable to take care of herself or house." He wrote nothing
about "serious harm" but certified plaintiff for emergency
involuntary confinement. Two days later defendant Dr. Alapati
signed a form entitled "Examination for 48-hour confirmation of
need for emergency admission." ...