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KATZMAN v. KHAN

September 17, 1999

EYAL KATZMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. KHAN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYER/AGENT OF THE QUEENS HOSPITAL CENTER; DR. MARTIN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYER/AGENT OF THE QUEENS HOSPITAL CENTER; DR. LOCURATOLO, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYER/AGENT OF THE CREEDMOOR PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; DR. SANKER, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN EMPLOYER/AGENT OF THE CREEDMOOR PSYCHIATRIC CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gershon, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Eyal Katzman brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Dr. Khan, Dr. Martin, Dr. Locuratolo and Dr. Sankar alleging violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff further seeks relief under New York common law for false imprisonment, medical malpractice, emotional distress, fraud and breach of contract, and under the New York State Mental Hygiene Law ("MHL"). In short, plaintiff contends that his emergency room detention at the Queens Hospital Center ("QHC") and subsequent transfer and admission to the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center ("CPC") violated the MHL and his constitutional rights. Plaintiff moves for leave to amend his amended complaint to seek additionally a declaratory judgment that the MHL is unconstitutional and to add Dr. Rubell, the attending physician at QHC, as a New York City defendant.

Both the New York City defendants (Drs. Kahn and Martin) and the New York State defendants (Drs. Locuratolo and Sankar) move for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims.

Facts

Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are not in dispute.

After the phone conversation had ended, Meltz walked by plaintiff's residence and saw him in front of the building lying on a stretcher, with both hands and feet cuffed. According to both plaintiff and the emergency room screening/admission note, the police had been summoned to the vicinity for an unrelated reason, but noticed plaintiff acting in a bizarre and threatening manner which prompted them to physically restrain plaintiff. According to the admission note, which warned under the "special precautions" heading that plaintiff was under observation for "agitated behavior," plaintiff had been observed by both Emergency Medical Services ("EMS") and police officers "running through the building, was wild, screaming, very agitated, fighting with them" and "needed to be handcuffed." State Defs.Ex. D. The admission note further stated that plaintiff asked police if he was going to be shot and told them alternately that they should shoot him and that the world was beautiful and he did not want to die. Plaintiff also sustained bruises and a black eye during his exchange with the police. When plaintiff caught sight of Meltz as he lay in the stretcher, he began screaming her name at the top of his voice.

At approximately 9:40 p.m., plaintiff was transported to the emergency room at QHC, arriving at 9:47 p.m. At approximately 10:00 p.m., Dr. Rubell, the attending emergency room psychiatrist at QHC, conferred with the police officers and the EMS personnel who had brought in plaintiff and who repeated to him what they had observed, as described above. In addition, Dr. Rubell spoke by telephone with Ms. Meltz and a Dr. Ann Gracer, a psychologist and Meltz's roommate at the time. They informed Dr. Rubell that Meltz had ended her relationship with plaintiff and he had appeared at her apartment, screaming and cursing. Meltz also stated that he had been harassing her by telephone asking him if she loved him, raving that everyone was against him, and telling her that the FBI and the government were involved in a conspiracy. Plaintiff's father, who had been notified that plaintiff was being brought to the QHC, arrived at the QHC and told Dr. Rubell only that he knew his son had been working on a paper about the FBI and had called them for research purposes. After he examined the plaintiff, Dr. Rubell stated in his notes that plaintiff had "given a different account about what happened" and was "guarded about giving out information about girlfriend." City Defs.Ex. E. Dr. Rubell noted that he was loud with pressured speech, diagnosed him as "bipolar disorder manic," and planned to admit him to the CPC because he believed plaintiff was a "danger to himself and others." Id.

At 10:35 p.m., Dr. Kahn, a resident psychiatrist in the emergency room, also spoke with plaintiff at the QHC. He noted on plaintiff's chart that plaintiff had told him that he had fought with his girlfriend and that there could be stress in his life which made him more irrational towards the police. With regard to plaintiff's suspicions of the FBI, Dr. Kahn indicated in his notes that he had confirmed with plaintiff's father that plaintiff believed the FBI was "against him," but the doctor was unable to elicit from plaintiff anything beyond the fact that he had been doing academic research on the FBI and was dealing with the FBI in the Eastern District.*fn1 Dr. Kahn therefore noted that he could not ascertain whether plaintiff's statements about the FBI were real or delusional. The doctor concluded that plaintiff had suffered a brief psychotic disorder and diagnosed a delusional disorder and an adjustment disorder.

Throughout the night at the QHC, nurses checked in on plaintiff and consistently noted that he was restless and demanding to be discharged. Dr. Kahn called the CPC at 4:30 a.m. about transferring plaintiff to that facility. Dr. Rubell checked in on plaintiff at 6:56 a.m. and wrote on his chart that plaintiff had been irritable and intrusive all night, symptoms he believed to be consistent with a bipolar disorder. A neurology consultation, upon the request of a Dr. Dintins from the CPC, was completed by a Dr. Gonzalez but revealed no findings of neurological abnormalities. At 1:00 p.m., Dr. Martin, the Physician-in-Charge, examined plaintiff and noted that he continued to complain about his transfer and admittance to CPC, but admitted that he had fought with police and threatened to kill his girlfriend. Dr. Martin observed that his speech was rapid and pressured with clear suspiciousness and paranoia, and further noted that plaintiff believed Dr. Kahn hated him and conspired to "do him ill." Dr. Martin concurred with Dr. Rubells' recommendation that plaintiff required admission to the CPC pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law § 9.39 as he remained a danger to others.

Plaintiff was transferred from the QHC to the CPC by ambulance at 1:30 p.m. on December 13, 1994. At the CPC, Dr. Locuratolo examined plaintiff and diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and manic with psychotic features. During the examination, plaintiff admitted to Dr. Locuratolo that he had a "scuffle with the police officer," and that he had gotten "very excited." Plaintiff also speculated that when he had told Meltz "something about himself," she had "gotten scared" and possibly called the police Dr. Locuratolo told plaintiff that he was keeping plaintiff at the hospital for observation, to which plaintiff responded by stating that he wanted a lawyer present. Plaintiff also became very agitated, combative and uncooperative. Dr. Locuratolo indicated in his notes that plaintiff called his parents at that point and was very angry with them. Dr. Locuratolo concluded in his notes that plaintiff needed "further psychiatric treatment and observation in the hospital because he appeared delusional and agitated," his insight and judgment were poor, and because of his reported threatening behavior towards others. State Defs.Ex. D. Plaintiff was then admitted on emergency status to ward 127 and placed on one-on-one observation. He was also given a Notice of Status and Rights regarding his emergency admission.

The next day, December 14, 1994, Dr. Sankar interviewed plaintiff and confirmed Dr. Locuratolo's finding that plaintiff had a mental illness which required his involuntary hospitalization. Dr. Sankar diagnosed plaintiff as suffering Adjustment Disorder with a Mixed Disturbance of Mood and Conduct. She concluded that one-on-one observation was no longer necessary but that plaintiff should receive counseling and therapy upon release to help him deal with stress.

Dr. Sankar interviewed plaintiff again on December 16, 1994. Dr. Sankar noted in her progress notes that plaintiff admitted that he had threatened his girlfriend by saying, "I'm going to kill you," but claimed that he meant it only as a figure of speech. Dr. Sankar described plaintiff as being friendly, cooperative and calm, and that he did not exhibit any signs of depression or psychotic features. She approved him for discharge. Her discharge summary stated that she spoke with Meltz, who reported no prior assaultive or abusive behavior by plaintiff, but that he had been "hyper" for a few days. Dr. Sankar advised her to seek an order of protection if she felt concerned about plaintiff's violence; Meltz declined. Plaintiff was discharged to his father on December 16, and a follow-up appointment was scheduled for December 19, 1994.

Plaintiff disputes the above facts only to the following extent: he claims that, although he did tell Meltz, "If you call my parents. I'll kill you," he characterizes this merely as "rhetorical hyperbole." He describes Meltz as a "liar, a perjurer, and an abuser of process," and describes her arrival at his apartment on the night he was committed as an indication that "she did not perceive [his] words as a threat." Plaintiff denies that he was violent or that he tried to escape from the police in front of his apartment building and asserts that the police and Meltz were "interested, unreliable third parties with malicious motives." He states that the police punched him in the face and cuffed him "without probable cause" and before Meltz had arrived to tell the police about his threatening behavior. Therefore, he alleges, the police used her account to justify restraining plaintiff only after the fact. Plaintiff further disputes the EMS report describing his irrational behavior as it was, he argues, dictated directly by the police rather than observed firsthand by the EMS. Plaintiff states that he only shouted Meltz's name several times outside of her building because he believed her doorbell was not working or that she could not hear it; he insists that he did not curse, scream or ...


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