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Goonewardena v. North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 26, 2014



MARGO K. BRODIE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Prasanna Goonewardena, proceeding pro se, filed the above-captioned action on May 20, 2011. On January 10, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint against Defendants North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System ("NSLIJ"), the Zucker Hillside Hospital ("Zucker Hillside"), Ludmila Dashevsky, Tina Walch, Pauline Walfisch, Mahendra Airen, Remy Gallant, Christopher Phillips, In Soon Yang, John Kane, Mary Afflerbach, Edward Redmond, John Doe and Gerald Ryan, alleging, among other things, that Defendants deprived Plaintiff of access to services and treatment programs on the basis of his disability, and conspired to hospitalize him involuntarily in retaliation for his complaints about discrimination. The Amended Complaint alleged claims pursuant to Title I and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (the "Rehabilitation Act"), 42 U.S.C §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986, and various state law claims. On May 11, 2012, Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Docket Entry No. 142.) Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis[1] referred the motion to Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom for a report and recommendation. (Docket Entry No. 71.) On November 5, 2012, Magistrate Judge Bloom filed a report and recommendation ("R&R"), recommending that Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted in its entirety and Plaintiff be denied further leave to amend. (Docket Entry No. 147.) Plaintiff timely filed objections and requested permission to amend the Amended Complaint. (Docket Entry No. 153.) On March 25, 2013, the Court adopted Judge Bloom's R&R in its entirety, granting Defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint and denying Plaintiff's motion to further amend the Amended Complaint. Goonewardena v. N. Shore Long Island Jewish Health Sys., No. 11-CV-2456, 2013 WL 1211496 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 2013). Judgment was entered on March 25, 2013. (Docket Entry No. 157.) Plaintiff now moves the Court, pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for vacatur of the Court's March 26, 2013 judgment and sanctions against defense counsel. Defendants oppose Plaintiffs' motion, move for sanctions against Plaintiff, and request that the Court issue an order reflecting Plaintiff's alleged voluntary dismissal of all claims against Defendant Gallant. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion for vacatur is denied and Defendants' motion for sanctions and request for a voluntary dismissal order is denied.

I. Background

The facts alleged in the Amended Complaint are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion. Plaintiff is a South Asian man of Sri Lankan origin. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ("OCD").[2] ( Id. ¶ 13.) From 1998 until March 30, 2011, Plaintiff was a patient at Zucker Hillside. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff's doctor at Zucker Hillside was Defendant Dashevsky. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that, as early as 2008, he complained to Dashevsky that he believed that she and Defendant Walch, the director of the aftercare unit, were discriminating against him.[3] ( Id. ¶ 15.) In 2008, Plaintiff complained to Dashevsky that the hospital had "discriminatory practices" and that he was not receiving "adequate care." ( Id. ¶ 16.) Dashevsky threatened to admit Plaintiff as an inpatient and "close his file, " if he complained to the administration. ( Id. ) After that session, Plaintiff feared that he would "be imprisoned for exercising his 1st Amendment rights." ( Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff did not believe that he was being properly treated for his illness, and he alleges that the medication he was prescribed made his OCD worse. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that Zucker Hillside had 20 attending doctors, all of whom were white, and its doctors only spent 15 minutes with each patient. ( Id. ) Plaintiff's sister spoke with Defendant Kane.[4] ( Id. ) She told Kane that she believed that the hospital was running a scam and that Plaintiff was being discriminated against because of his race, color and national origin. ( Id. ) Kane said that he would look into the allegations.[5] ( Id. ¶ 18.) Walch called Plaintiff's sister and told her that Plaintiff should go elsewhere if he was not happy with the service he was receiving. ( Id. )

Plaintiff did not have any money, so he decided to continue to be treated at Zucker depression but not from Schizoaffective disorder or any other illness, (Pl. Obj. 6). Hillside. ( Id. ¶ 19.) On June 10, 2010, Plaintiff met with Walch and "explained the situation to her that the Plaintiff was discriminated against because of his race, and was on the wrong medications...." ( Id. ¶ 21.) Walch told Plaintiff that he needed to stop complaining or he would be hospitalized. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that at his next appointment with Dashevsky, she was angry at Plaintiff for meeting with Walch and said that he was a troublemaker. ( Id. ¶ 22.) A few weeks later, Plaintiff met with Mary Ann Ricardo, an employee at Zucker Hillside, and asked why the attending doctors only see patients for 15 minutes. ( Id. ¶ 23.) Ricardo told Plaintiff that the appointments are short because attending doctors only prescribe medication - they do not provide therapy. ( Id. ) Ricardo told Plaintiff to see a social worker if he needed therapy. ( Id. ) Plaintiff began looking for a social worker. ( Id. ¶ 24.)

Plaintiff always arrived one hour early for his appointments and, while he was waiting, would speak with various Zucker Hillside employees. ( Id. ¶ 25.) On March 11, 2011, Plaintiff was at the hospital scheduling an appointment to see Dashevsky. ( Id. ¶ 28.) On his way out of the hospital, Plaintiff was reading a list of active medical residents posted on the wall. ( Id. ) While he was reading the list, a Caucasian woman approached Plaintiff, told him that she knew who he was and to leave the area immediately. ( Id. ) Plaintiff returned to the second floor, where he had been to make his appointment, and encountered Ricardo. ( Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff asked Ricardo for the name of the woman who had harassed him, and Ricardo told him it was Defendant Walfisch, the aftercare program director. ( Id. ) Plaintiff told Ricardo "to tell Ms. Walfisch that if she ever threatened the Plaintiff again, Plaintiff will press charges against her for harassment." ( Id. )

On March 16, 2011, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Dashevsky, informing her that he was "going to take legal actions against the hospital if the hospital [did] not change their policies." ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that this "letter did not sit well with Dr. Dashevsky, Dr. Walch and Ms. Walfisch." ( Id. ¶ 30.) On March 30, 2011, Plaintiff had an appointment with Dashevsky. ( Id. ) Plaintiff arrived early for his appointment, so he could meet with Kane. ( Id. ) In light of the number of times Dashevsky threatened Plaintiff with hospitalization, Plaintiff carried a digital recorder with him that day. ( Id. ) When Plaintiff arrived at Kane's office, his secretary recognized Plaintiff and told Plaintiff that Kane was not available. ( Id. ) Plaintiff left his contact information and asked the secretary to tell Kane that Plaintiff was going to take legal action against the hospital. ( Id. ) Plaintiff returned to the aftercare building but did not go to the second floor for his appointment with Dashevsky. ( Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) Instead, Plaintiff waited in the first floor reception area. ( Id. ¶ 31.) While he was waiting, Plaintiff overheard the receptionist say his last name to someone on the telephone. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asked who she was speaking to, and she responded that she was speaking with his doctor. ( Id. )

Michael Levene arrived and asked the receptionist if "that guy" was still in the reception area. ( Id. ) The receptionist pointed at Plaintiff, and Plaintiff asked Levene why he was asking about Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Levene responded that someone had complained to security about Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Plaintiff went up to the second floor, and Dashevsky told Plaintiff that she would see him at 5:00 p.m. ( Id. ¶ 32.) A few minutes before five, Plaintiff went outside to activate his audio recorder. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Dashevsky then came and took Plaintiff to her office. ( Id. ¶ 33.) When Plaintiff asked why she had called the receptionist, Dashevsky told him that someone had complained about his visit to Kane. ( Id. ) A few minutes into the conversation, Defendant Ryan, the hospital's security director, arrived. ( Id. ¶ 34.) He asked Plaintiff to sign a document ("Agreement") without reading it and without allowing Plaintiff to consult a lawyer. ( Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) The Agreement, which is attached to the Amended Complaint, states:

On at least two occasions over the past month, you were observed on the Zucker Hillside Hospital (ZHH) campus without an appointment attempting to engage in contact with staff who are not involved in your care. On at least one occasion you were asked to leave the premises. This pattern of repeated behavior is inappropriate and not related to your care plan here at ZHH. While the ZHH is dedicated to outstanding patient care, anyone in need of treatment without an appointment must report to the Hillside Evaluation Clinic ("HEC") or the Emergency Department. Please be advised of the following:
• You are not authorized to enter the ZHH campus without a scheduled appointment unless you report to the HEC or the LIJ Emergency Department.
• Upon finishing your appointment, you should depart the premises in a timely manner.
• Any questions or treatment issues should be discussed with your treating doctor.
• Failure to abide by this policy will result in your expulsion from the grounds by Security.

(Agreement, annexed to Am. Compl. as Ex. I.) Plaintiff refused to sign the letter, and Dashevsky told him, "in the mean time [sic] you have to be in the hospital." (Am. Compl. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff still refused to sign the letter, and Dashevsky told the officer to take Plaintiff to the walk-in clinic. ( Id. )

Plaintiff went to the walk-in clinic, and, when he arrived, he asked Defendant Gallant, one of the hospital's mental health workers, if he could see the director. ( Id. ¶ 37.) Gallant asked Plaintiff to take his jacket off. ( Id. ) Plaintiff refused "since he had an activated recorder in his jacket pocket." ( Id. ) Plaintiff asked to use the bathroom, and Defendant Phillips approached and said, "Sir you are going to force our hands in a second." ( Id. ) Plaintiff responded, "You do what you got to do." ( Id. ) A security guard that had been standing behind Plaintiff approached Plaintiff and picked him up. ( Id. ) Phillips, Gallant, Wane Thompson and two other security guards took Plaintiff to another room and "forced the Plaintiff fac[e] down on a mattress that was on the floor." ( Id. ) One of the security guards put his knees on Plaintiff's back, and Phillips started to punch Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff screamed for help, and Phillips smothered Plaintiff to keep him quiet. ( Id. ¶ 39.) Plaintiff eventually stopped struggling, and his clothes and shoes were removed. ( Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff was injected with antipsychotic drugs. ( Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff alleges that this assault was ordered by Dashevsky. ( Id. ¶ 42.)

A few hours later, Defendant Redmond arrived and took Plaintiff to the inpatient unit. ( Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff asked for his clothes back, but Redmond told Plaintiff that he would not get his clothes back until he got to the inpatient unit. ( Id. ) On March 31, 2011, Plaintiff wrote to the chief administrator of Zucker Hillside and requested an investigation into the assault. ( Id. ¶ 45.) The next day, Defendant Afflerbach conducted a short interview with Plaintiff and then wrote a "sham" incident report. ( Id. ¶ 46.) The unit chief examined Plaintiff and determined that he could be discharged. ( Id. ¶ 44.) Before he was discharged, Nancy Conti informed Plaintiff that Dashevsky, Walch and Walfisch had "decided not to take the Plaintiff back to the after care unit to treat the Plaintiff because of his disability." ( Id. ) Plaintiff immediately wrote a letter to Conti, stating that this action was a violation of Title III of the ADA. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was discharged on April 6, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 47.)

II. Discussion

a. Standard of Review

i. Reconsideration

The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration "is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked - matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court."[6] Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995); see also Local Civ. R. 6.3 (The moving party must "set[] forth concisely the matters or controlling decisions which counsel believes the Court has overlooked."); Smith v. New York City Dep't of Educ., 524 F.Appx. 730, 734 (2d Cir. 2013) ("To warrant reconsideration, a party must point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked - matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court.'" (quoting Shrader, 70 F.3d at 257)).

It is thus "well-settled" that a motion for reconsideration is "not a vehicle for relitigating old issues, presenting the case under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits, or otherwise taking a second bite at the apple.'" Analytical Surveys, Inc. v. Tonga Partners, L.P., 684 F.3d 36, 52 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Sequa Corp. v. GBJ Corp., 156 F.3d 136, 144 (2d Cir. 1998)), as amended (July 13, 2012). In other words, "[r]econsideration of a court's previous order is an extraordinary remedy to be employed sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial resources." Hidalgo v. New York, No. 11-CV-5074, 2012 WL 3598878, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A motion for reconsideration "should not be used as a vehicle simply to voice disagreement with the Court's decision, ... nor does it present an occasion for repeating old arguments previously rejected or an opportunity for making new arguments that could have previously been made.'" Premium Sports Inc. v. Connell, No. 10-CV-3753, 2012 WL 2878085, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 11, 2012) (citations omitted). Moreover, "a party may not, on a motion for reconsideration, raise an argument for the first time." Image Processing Tech., LLC v. Canon Inc., No. 10-CV-3867, 2012 WL 253097, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 26, 2012) (alteration, citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (collecting cases). In order to prevail on a motion for reconsideration, "the moving party must demonstrate that the Court overlooked controlling decisions or factual matters that were put before the Court on the underlying motion. " Lichtenberg v. Besicorp Grp. Inc., 28 F.Appx. 73, 75 (2d Cir. 2002) (emphasis added) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Henderson v. City of New York, No. 05-CV-2588, 2011 WL 5513228, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2011) ("In order to have been overlooked, ' the decisions or data in question must have been put before [the court] on the underlying motion... and which, had they been considered, ...

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