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Bak v. Niagara Rehabilitation and Nursing Center

United States District Court, Second Circuit

January 24, 2014

WILLIAM P. BAK, as son and next best friend of JOSEPHINE BAK, his mother, Plaintiff,
v.
NIAGARA REHABILITATION and NURSING CENTER; THOMAS J. CASERTA, JR., ESQ., solely in his capacity as Guardian of Josephine Bak by appointment under Article 81 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law; ARTHUR E. JACKSON, JR., ESQ., solely in his capacity as Temporary Guardian of Josephine Bak by appointment under Article 81 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law; CITY OF NIAGARA FALLS; and COUNTY OF NIAGARA; Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff William Bak commenced this action on February 27, 2013, alleging that his mother, Josephine Bak ("JB"), was subjected to an unconstitutional seizure, and deprived of her liberty without due process, when she was taken involuntarily from their residence and placed in a nursing home.

On May 1, 2013, Defendants County of Niagara, Arthur Jackson, Esq., and Niagara Rehabilitation and Nursing Center ("NRNC") each moved to dismiss the claims against them, [1] under Rules 12(b)(1) and (b)(6), for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim for relief. The motions are fully briefed and the Court has determined that oral argument is not necessary. For the reasons stated below, the motions are granted.

II. BACKGROUND

A. The Facts

The following facts are accepted as true for purposes of resolving the pending motions. They are drawn from the Complaint and the attachments thereto, which consist entirely of documents filed in a state court proceeding and of which this Court takes judicial notice.

When this action was filed, JB was 96 years old. By the year 2009, JB's physical and mental faculties had diminished such that she required substantial assistance to meet basic daily needs. JB owns her own home and resided there with two adult children, Plaintiff and his sister, until September 20, 2010.

Early in 2010, Defendant Niagara County's Department of Social Services received a referral to investigate JB's living arrangements and determine if she was at risk of harm. Employees of Niagara County's Department of Social Services ("DSS") visited and inspected JB's household. Thereafter, the County commenced a proceeding in New York State Supreme Court, under Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law, seeking appointment of a permanent guardian for JB. The Honorable Frank Caruso, J.S.C., signed an Order to Show Cause on March 15, 2010 which, inter alia, appointed Defendant Jackson as temporary guardian for JB, and Charles Ben, II, Esq. as attorney for JB, and set a return date of April 15, 2010. That date was later adjourned and ultimately rescheduled for December 10, 2010.

In initiating the guardianship proceeding, DSS took the position that JB required the presence of a caregiver at all times. Plaintiff and his sister were of the opinion that DSS's insistence on 24-hour care was unreasonable. When a DSS employee later visited the Bak residence, on September 20, 2010, JB was home alone in her bed. With assistance from the City of Niagara Falls Police Department, the DSS employee had JB transported to a hospital, where she remained for three days. On September 23, 2010, JB was transferred to Defendant NRNC, a nursing home.

JB's appointed attorney, Charles Ben, appeared in state court on the Order to Show Cause on December 10, 2010. Also present were temporary guardian Jackson, proposed permanent guardian Caserta, Plaintiff, his sister, and the attorney they retained to represent their interests. On January 7, 2011, Justice Caruso issued an order appointing Defendant Caserta JB's permanent guardian. That appointment remains in place.

JB has continued to reside at NRNC. According to Plaintiff, he visits JB almost daily, and on each occasion, JB tells him she is unhappy and wants to return home.

B. The Claims for Relief

Though the Complaint does not set forth distinct causes of action, Plaintiff appears to claim that: Defendant Jackson did not have authority to place JB in a nursing home (Complaint ¶ 26), JB was denied due process in the Article 81 proceeding and, therefore, is aggrieved by Defendant Caserta's appointment (¶¶ 35-46, 57-59, 63), Defendants County and City violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution when they removed JB from her residence (¶ 61), and Defendants County, NRNC, and Jackson violated JB's due process rights when they acted in concert to confine ...


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