The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, U.S. District Judge
On April 28, 1999, at the 51st Street Lexington Avenue subway station,
Julio Perez pushed plaintiff Edgar Rivera onto the subway tracks in front
of an oncoming train. Rivera lost both legs. Perez was homeless and
mentally ill; at the time he was receiving medical care or other
assistance from three medical facilities and two homeless shelters.
In these cases, Rivera and his common-law wife, Elizabeth Pacheco, sue
the health care providers and homeless shelters for Rivera's personal
injuries and other losses, contending that defendants were negligent in
failing to protect the public from Perez. Defendants move to dismiss or,
in the case of two defendants, for summary judgment, arguing that they
owed no duty to protect Rivera and other members of the public from
Perez. For the reasons set forth below, the motions of the medical
provider defendants are denied, and the motions of the homeless shelter
defendants are granted.
As alleged in the complaints, the facts are as follows: On April 28,
1999, Rivera was on the platform at the 51st Street Lexington Avenue
subway station when Perez pushed him into the path of an oncoming subway
train. (Compl. I at ¶ 8, 11).*fn1 As a result, Rivera suffered
severe injuries and he required extensive medical treatment. (Id. at
Perez was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who showed violent
tendencies, had a known history of violence, and did not take his
medications. (Id. at ¶ 44-46, 50-51). During 1999, defendant New
York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (the "HHC") provided Perez
with medical and psychiatric services at Bellevue Hospital and Elmhurst
Hospital Center. (Id. at ¶ 18, 20-21). Defendants New York
Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia Presbyterian Campus ("Presbyterian"), Dr.
Bonard Moise, and the United States (through the Veterans Administration
(the "V.A.")) also provided plaintiff with medical and psychiatric
services. (Id. at ¶ 26, 30-39; Compl. II at ¶ 8-12). Plaintiffs
allege that a V.A. doctor saw Perez at the V.A. Hospital in Manhattan on
the morning of the incident and permitted him to leave "despite the fact
that Mr. Julio Perez, upon information and belief, was under the
impression that `people were out to get [him].'" (Compl. II at ¶
12-13). Criminal charges were brought against Perez, and in October,
2000, he was convicted of attempted murder and assault in New York
Supreme Court, New York County.
Plaintiffs allege that the HHC, Presbyterian, Moise, and the V.A. were
"negligent and careless in the medical and psychiatric treatment rendered
to Julio Perez." (Compl. I at ¶ 53; Compl. II at ¶ 16).
Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the medical provider defendants were
negligent and careless in:
failing to practice according to generally accepted
medical and psychiatric standards;
failing to heed the danger that Perez posed to himself
and the general public;
failing to provide Perez with proper and adequate
mental health care, drug treatment therapy, or
failing to "hold" Perez involuntarily in light of his
medical history and condition;
failing to take steps to protect the public from
failing to provide sufficient post-discharge planning
and proper out-patient care; and
failing to insure that Perez took proper medication.
(See Compl. I at ¶ 53; Compl. II at ¶ 15).
From approximately April 1998 through April 28, 1999, Perez purportedly
resided at two homeless shelters, defendants Fort Washington Men's
Shelter ("Fort Washington") and Citiview Connections ("Citiview").
(Compl. I. at ¶ 69, 70)*fn2 During that time, and especially just
before the incident, Perez was aggressive and violent toward other
residents. (Id. at ¶ 71).
Plaintiffs contend that, in light of Perez's violent behavior during
the weeks preceding the accident, "the [shelter] defendants knew or
should have known that Julio Perez was a danger to others." (Id. at 71).
Plaintiffs also allege that Fort Washington and Citiview "owed a duty to
other `third' parties . . . to supervise, control and otherwise restrain
Julio Perez" yet "failed to intervene in a reasonable fashion; failed to
make any attempts to supervise or control Julio Perez in any manner . .
. [and] . . . failed to warn any other agency, treating medical facility
or other treating physicians about Julio Perez' behavior." (Id.).
Plaintiffs filed suit in May 2000 in New York Supreme Court, Bronx
County, against defendants HHC, Presbyterian, Moise, Fort Washington,
Citiview, the New York City Transit Authority ("NYCTA"), the City of New
York (the "City"), and Dr. Arnaldo Gonzalez. The case was removed to this
Court on July 7, 2000 because Gonzalez was a V.A. doctor and thus the
claim against him was effectively a claim against the United States. By
stipulation so ordered on July 24, 2000, the claims against Gonzalez were
dismissed without prejudice to plaintiffs' right to re-file against the
United States after complying with the requirements of the Federal Tort
Claims Act (the "FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq.
After Rivera exhausted his administrative remedies as required by the
FTCA, he commenced the second of these actions against the United
States. The first case was removed from the Court's suspense docket and
restored to active status.
These motions followed. HHC, Presbyterian, Moise, the United States,
the City, and Citiview moved to dismiss, and NYCTA and Fort Washington
moved for summary judgment. On February 5, 2002, I heard oral argument.
Ruling from the bench, I granted the motions of City and NYCTA,
dismissing the claims against them. I reserved decision as to the claims
against the remaining defendants.*fn3
For the reasons that follow, I hold that no bright-line rule exists.
Rather, the existence of a duty of care to the general public arising
from the treatment of an outpatient turns on the facts. Here, accepting
the allegations of the complaint as true for purposes of these motions,
and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, I conclude that, as
to the health care providers, Rivera has stated claims upon which relief
may be granted and that therefore he is entitled to offer evidence in
support of his claims. Accordingly, the motions of the health care
providers are denied. As to the homeless shelters, although I conclude as
well that no bright-line rule exists protecting all homeless shelters
from liability for the actions of voluntary ...