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Harvey v. Sawyer

July 22, 2010

GREGORY HARVEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DONALD SAWYER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; SHADIA HANNA, MEDICAL DOCTOR - PSYCHIATRY, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; MINHAJ SIDDIQI, MEDICAL DOCTOR - PSYCHIATRY, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; CHERYL MEYERS, NURSE PRACTITIONER - PSYCHIATRY, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; JIM BARTON, WARD COORDINATOR, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; GAIL GOODWIN, PSYCHIATRIC THERAPIST, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; DR. BROWN, MEDICAL DOCTOR - PSYCHIATRY, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; SEVERAL OTHER MEDICAL DOCTORS, MEDICAL DOCTORS -PSYCHIATRY, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; BRAD DAVIS, SENIOR THERAPY ASSISTANT, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER; AND KEN,*FN1 SENIOR THERAPY ASSISTANT, CENTRAL NEW YORK PSYCHIATRIC CENTER, DEFENDANTS.*FN2



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R. Homer U.S. Magistrate Judge

REPORT-RECOMMENDATION AND ORDER*fn3

Plaintiff pro se Gregory Harvey ("Harvey"), an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that eight DOCS employees at the Central New York Psychiatric Center (CNYPC) violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1). Presently pending is the moving defendants'*fn4 motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 20. Harvey opposes the motion. Dkt. No. 22. For the following reasons, it is recommended that defendants' motion be granted and the complaint be dismissed with prejudice. It is further recommended that the complaint be dismissed without prejudice as to unserved defendants.

I. Background

The facts are related herein in the light most favorable to Harvey as the non-moving party. See Ertman v. United States, 165 F.3d 204, 206 (2d Cir.1999). All events appear to have occurred while Harvey was admitted to the CNYPC.

Harvey was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on psychotropic medication in 2004 but discontinued its use and attending counseling at the direction of another psychiatrist in December 2007. Compl. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 3. After his 2004 diagnosis, Harvey was hospitalized for his mental illness on several occasions. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 3. On April 30, 2008, Harvey was admitted to CNYPC for observation. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 3. On May 14, 2008, defendant Sawyer, the Executive Director of the CNYPC, provided certificatio0ns from two other doctors to the Oneida County Court supporting a request that Harvey be involuntarily committed to CNYPC and asserting a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Compl. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 4. Harvey contends that Sawyer had no evidence that Harvey was a danger to himself or others, and that the other two physicians never examined him. Compl. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 4. Additionally, Harvey contends that defendant Meyers, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, changed his diagnosis from bipolar disorder to paranoid schizophrenia without authority and improperly. Compl. ¶ 7, Third Cause of Action; Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 6. The county court ordered Harvey involuntarily committed for sixty days. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 4.

On July 17, 2008, Sawyer applied to the Oneida County Court to extend Harvey's commitment. Compl. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 5. This application was supported by defendants Sawyer, Hanna, Meyers, and Siddiqi, who affirmed that Harvey required medication but refused it. Compl. ¶ 7, First, Second & Third Causes of Action.*fn5 The court again ordered Harvey committed for six months. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 5; see also In re Retention to a State Hospital, for the Mentally Ill, in the State Office of Mental Health, Gregory Harvey, No. MH-08-0815 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Oneida County July 17, 2008) (hereinafter In re Harvey I)*fn6 . The decision indicated that Harvey had requested a hearing subsequent to Sawyer's evaluation and application for his involuntary retention at CNYPC, the court held that Harvey was mentally ill, properly suited for commitment and continued treatment at CNYPC, and that there was no notification served to any friends or family of Harvey's because there were no known friends or family located in the state.*fn7 In re Harvey I (July 17, 2008). Harvey's diagnosis remained paranoid schizophrenia. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 6.

On August 18, 2008, the county court conducted a hearing regarding Harvey's involuntary commitment and forced medication. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 7. The court then ordered treatment and medication to continue, despite Harvey's objections. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 7; see also In re Application of Donald Sawyer v. Harvey, No. CA2008-002154, RJI 32-08-0798 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Oneida County Aug. 18, 2008) (hereinafter In re Harvey II)*fn8 . The court received evidence from Sawyer, Meyers, Hanna, and Siddiqi and heard testimony and arguments from counsel for both Sawyer and Harvey. Id. The court held that Harvey lacked capacity to make reasonable decisions regarding his mental health treatment, that the proposed course of treatment advanced by defendants was appropriate, and that it was in Harvey's best interests to pursue that treatment. Id. Accordingly, CNYPC staff was given permission to medicate and retain Harvey involuntarily for up to twelve months. Id. Harvey was thereafter forcibly administered multiple medications for his mental health which he claimed caused him muscle spasms and high blood pressure. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 8.

During Harvey's time in CNYPC, he also claims that he was discriminated against for declining his medication. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 8. Defendant Barton told Harvey, in front of fifteen of the staff members, that he could expect to be discriminated against. Compl. ¶ 7, Fourth Cause of Action; Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 11. Moreover, the fact that "98% of the wards staff [wa]s white [made Harvey] . . . feel[] he was discriminated against racially and for refusing inadequate medical treatment and medication." Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 11. Harvey alleges that ward staff, particularly defendant Davis, tried to provoke him. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 11. Additionally, Harvey alleges that defendant Goodwin provided false medical diagnoses, failed to notify Harvey's family of his hospitalization, and denied him the opportunity to participate in the recreation program. Compl. ¶ 7, Fifth Cause of Action; Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 10. Davis also gave Harvey poor scores regarding his patient development, which precluded Harvey from "enjoy[ing] certain privileges as [an] honor patient[]." Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 11; see also Compl. ¶ 7, Eighth Cause of Action. Such actions were further perpetuated by defendant Paparella, who refused to bestow honor privileges upon Harvey despite the fact that his scores put him within the "honors" range. Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 11; see also Compl ¶ 7, Ninth Cause of Action. This action followed.

II. Discussion

Harvey contends that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated when he was involuntarily committed, forcefully medicated, and had his diagnosis changed from bipolar disorder to paranoid schizophrenia. Additionally, Harvey contends that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was discriminated against, actions which were both racially motivated and due to his refusal to accept psychiatric medication. Defendants argue that Harvey's claims are (1) barred by issue preclusion doctrines, (2) meritless, (3) protected by the Eleventh Amendment, and (4) subject to qualified immunity.

A. Legal Standard

Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint that states no actionable claim. When considering a motion to dismiss, "a court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant." Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994). However, this "tenet . . . is inapplicable to legal conclusions[; thus, t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (holding that "entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . [as] courts are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.")).

Accordingly, to defeat a motion to dismiss, a claim must include "facial plausibility . . . that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (explaining that the plausibility test "does not impose a probability requirement . . . it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].")); see also Arar v. Ashcroft, 585 F.3d 559, 569 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that, "[o]n a motion to dismiss, courts require enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible . . . .") (citations omitted). Determining whether plausibility exists is "a content specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51.

When, as here, a party seeks summary judgment against a pro se litigant, a court must afford the non-movant special solicitude. Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 477 (2d Cir.2006); see also Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant # 1, 537 F.3d 185, 191-92 (2d Cir.2008) ("On occasions too numerous to count, we have reminded district courts that 'when [a] plaintiff proceeds pro se, ... a court is obliged to construe his pleadings liberally.' " (citations omitted)).

B. Issue Preclusion

Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, federal courts must grant state court judgments the same preclusive effects as those given to other courts within the state. Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984)). "Once a court has decided an issue of fact or law necessary to its judgment, that decision may preclude relitigation of the issue in a suit on a different cause of action involving a party to the first case." Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980).

1. Res Judicata

"A final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action." Allen, 449 U.S. at 94 (applying res judicata to a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action). Thus, to sustain a claim of res judicata, the defense must show that "(1) the previous action involved an adjudication on the merits; (2) the previous action involved the plaintiffs or those in privity with them; and (3) the claims asserted in the subsequent action were, or could have been, raised in the prior action." Monahan v. New York City Dep't of Corr., 214 F.3d 275, 285 (2d Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In New York State, the analysis is governed by the transactional approach by which later claims are barred if they "aris[e] out of the same factual grouping as an earlier litigated claim even if the[y are] . . . based on different legal theories or seek[] dissimilar or additional relief." Burgos, 14 F.3d at 790 (citations omitted).

Res judicata will not apply where the original forum is incapable of providing the relief requested by the plaintiff. Burgos, 14 F.3d at 790 (citing Davidson v. Capuano, 792 F.2d 275, 278 (2d Cir. 1986)). "Thus, where a plaintiff was precluded from recovering damages in the initial action by formal jurisdiction or statutory barriers, not by plaintiff's choice, a subsequent action for damages will not normally be barred by res judicata even where it arises from the same factual circumstances as the initial action." Id. Even if res judicata is inapplicable to a § 1983 action because the state court forum was incapable of awarding the requested relief, it does not preclude the application of collateral estoppel. See Phifer v. City of New York, 289 F.3d 49, 56 (2d Cir. 2002).

Here, Harvey seeks compensatory and punitive damages from defendants after defendants successfully petitioned the county court to have Harvey deemed incompetent and order involuntary commitment and forced medication. In the original proceeding, the county court "determined that [Harvey wa]s mentally ill and in need of care and treatment . . . [and] committ[ed Harvey] to a hospital . . . ." N.Y. Correct. Law ยง402(5). Thus, statutorily, the county court was limited in the relief it could order. This injunctive relief, whether to approve the commitment of Harvey, is distinct from the compensatory damages Harvey now seeks. The proceeding a month later was also ...


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