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Grogan v. Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance Corps

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

September 29, 2014

LENORE B. GROGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BLOOMING GROVE VOLUNTEER AMBULANCE CORPS, CAROLE MCCANN, CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, Defendants-Appellees. [1]

Argued December 12, 2013

Page 260

Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Briccetti, J.) granting defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because plaintiff failed to establish that the defendants' challenged conduct constituted " state action." Plaintiff alleges that a private volunteer ambulance organization, contracted by a municipality to provide emergency medical services as permitted by New York law, violated her rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments when it issued disciplinary charges against her and then suspended her from the organization without a proper hearing. We agree with the district court that the defendants' challenged conduct did not constitute state action under either theory pressed by the plaintiff on appeal.

MICHAEL H. SUSSMAN, Sussman & Watkins, Goshen, New York, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

REBECCA GRACE BALDWIN MANTELLO, and JOSEPH A. CATANIA, Jr., Catania, Mahon, Milligram & Rider, PLLC, Newburgh, New York, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: CABRANES, HALL, and CHIN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 261

Hall, Circuit Judge :

Lenore Grogan brought this civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance Corps (" BGVAC" ) and several of its directors, alleging that various disciplinary charges levied against her by BGVAC, and her resulting suspension as an officer of BGVAC without a hearing, violated her rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Briccetti, J.) granted summary judgment to the defendants and dismissed Grogan's federal constitutional claims after concluding that the challenged acts of BGVAC did not constitute " state action." Grogan argues on appeal that BGVAC's conduct

Page 262

amounts to state action because: (1) the services BGVAC provides--emergency medical care and general ambulance services--are " traditionally exclusive public functions" that the State has delegated to BGVAC; and (2) the extensive State regulation and oversight under which BGVAC operates, coupled with BGVAC's performance of a " municipally assumed" statutory function, so " entwines" BGVAC with the State that its actions are fairly attributable to the State. Because BGVAC's conduct does not constitute state action under either theory, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

BACKGROUND[2]

BGVAC is a private, non-profit membership corporation organized under the laws of New York. The Town of Blooming Grove, New York contracted with BGVAC to provide emergency medical services and general ambulance services to the members of that community, as authorized by New York Town Law § 198(10-f). As relevant here, that statutory provision states that a town in New York " may . . . provide" emergency medical and general ambulance services " and to that end may . . . [c]ontract with one or more . . . organizations . . . to supply, staff and equip emergency medical service or ambulance vehicles suitable for such purposes and operate such vehicles for the furnishing of prehospital emergency treatment." N.Y. Town Law § 198(10-f)(a)(iii). Various other provisions of New York law permit " municipalities" to provide emergency medical and general ambulance services in a similar manner, see N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § 122-b, provide for state oversight and regulation of emergency medical services, see N.Y. Pub. Health Law § § 3000-032, and establish a benefits scheme and an award program for volunteer ambulance workers, see N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § § 219-b-219-t; N.Y. Volunteer Ambulance Workers Benefit Law § § 1-91.

The terms of BGVAC's contract with the Town require it to maintain emergency response vehicles and to hire trained personnel for the purpose of providing emergency medical services and the transportation of sick and injured persons. In consideration for these services the Town pays BGVAC a yearly sum of $362,000, distributed in four quarterly installments. The contract identifies BGVAC as an " independent contractor" and disclaims any agency or employment relationship between the Town and BGVAC. BGVAC is also required to purchase and maintain liability insurance " in an amount deemed satisfactory by the Town" and to indemnify the Town against " any and all cost, claim, injury, damage or liability" arising from the contract or the services BGVAC provides. The contract allows the Town to audit BGVAC's books and requires BGVAC to provide the Town with quarterly reports detailing its financial activities, but there is no indication in the record that the Town appoints BGVAC's board of directors, oversees the election of BGVAC officers, or has any role in BGVAC's personnel decisions.

Grogan is a certified emergency medical technician who became a member of BGVAC in 2001 and was elected Captain in 2007. In that capacity, Grogan was responsible for supervising the assistant captain and lieutenants, overseeing scheduling and training, reporting to BGVAC's board of directors (" Board" ), and fundraising. In May 2008, the Board issued twenty-one charges against Grogan and suspended her for dereliction of ...


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