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Rhee v. Cartmill

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 30, 2015

JAMES RHEE, Plaintiff,
GOOD SAMARITAN HOSPITAL; KEITH CARTMILL, M.D., personally; SCOTT MANKOWITZ, M.D., personally; JANE DOES #s VAHAN KOUYOUMDJIAN, M.D., personally; LARA R. GATES, personally; YOUNG YOON, M.D., personally; Defendants.


NELSON S. ROMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff James Rhee brings this action prose and in forma pauperis for alleged civil rights violations arising from his involuntary commitment at Summit Park Hospital in August 2011. Defendants Summit Park Hospital, Vahan Kouyoumdjian, M.D., Lara R. Gates, and Young Yoon, M.D. (collectively, the "Rockland County Defendants"), Good Samaritan Hospital and Jane Does 1 and 2 (collectively, the "Good Samaritan Defendants"), Keith Cartmill, M.D., and Scott Mankowitz, M.D. move for judgment on the pleadings Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).


"[F]ailure to oppose a 12(b)(6) [or 12(c)] motion cannot itself justify dismissal of a complaint." Haas v. Commerce Bank, 497 F.Supp.2d 563, 564 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (citing McCall v. Pataki, 232 F.3d 321, 322 (2d Cir. 2000)). Where a Rule 12(c) motion is unopposed, "the sufficiency of a complaint is a matter of law that the court is capable of determining based on its own reading of the pleading and knowledge of the law." Id. at 322-23.

As of the date of this Order, Plaintiff has not submitted opposition to any of Defendants' motions. The Court granted Plaintiff four extensions giving him a total of 196 days to do so. ( See ECF Nos. 39, 65-66, 73-74, 82.) In granting the last of those extensions, the Court noted: "No further extensions will be granted. If the Court does not receive Plaintiff's opposition to Defendants' motions to dismiss by January 5, 2015, it will issue a decision accordingly." (ECF No. 82.) Because Plaintiff has had more than ample opportunity to respond, has been warned of the consequences of his failure to do so, and has been granted several lengthy extensions, the Court will decide the motions on Defendants' submissions alone, in light of the Court's "reading of the pleading and knowledge of the law." Hass, 497 F.Supp.2d at 564.


The instant Complaint arises from Plaintiff's involuntary commitment at Summit Park Hospital under N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law ("MHL") § 9.27. MHL § 9.27 permits involuntary commitment, based on the signed certificates of two examining physicians, of a person who "has a mental illness for which care and treatment as a patient in a hospital is essential to such person's welfare and whose judgment is so impaired that he is unable to understand the need for such care and treatment" if "as a result of his/her mental illness, this person poses a substantial threat of harm to self or others." N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law §§ 9.01, 9.27; Antwi v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., No. 14 CIV. 840 ER, 2014 WL 6481996, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 18, 2014).

On August 3, 2011, after Plaintiff's mother called the police to complain that Plaintiff "threatened to kill her, " was "bipolar, " and "wasn't taking his prescribed medication, " the police took Plaintiff to Good Samaritan Hospital, a private facility. (Compl. 4-5.) Dr. Cartmill allegedly examined Plaintiff for "less than a minute, " determined that he "did not hurt anyone and does not contemplate hurting anyone, " and concluded that his condition was "mild and brought on by stress." (Id. at 5.) Nevertheless, Dr. Cartmill signed a certificate for Plaintiff's involuntary commitment under MHL § 9.27. (Id. ) Dr. Cartmill's certificate was allegedly based wholly on Plaintiff's prior diagnosis of bipolar disorder, despite the fact that Dr. Cartmill allegedly knew or should have known, based on Plaintiff's medical records, that Plaintiff's condition did not require medication. (Id. at 2, 5.) Dr. Mankowitz allegedly signed a second certificate for Plaintiff's involuntary commitment under MHL § 9.27 despite never having examined Plaintiff in person. (Id. at 5.) His certificate was allegedly based on an examination performed by Jane Doe 2, a social worker employed by Good Samaritan Hospital, who relied on Plaintiff's mother's statements. (Id. )

Plaintiff was then transferred and admitted to Summit Park Hospital, which is owned by Rockland County. (Id. at 3, 5.) Defendant Lara Gates, a nurse practitioner employed by Summit Park Hospital, performed another psychiatric evaluation. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that a guard named Frank asked Defendant Dr. Kouyoumdjian what was happening with Plaintiff's case. (Id. at 6.) Dr. Kouyoumdjian allegedly told Frank that Plaintiff had been committed pursuant to two physicians' certificates and would be kept for evaluation. (Id. )

Plaintiff further alleges that (1) his blood was drawn by unidentified Good Samaritan Hospital employees against his will ( id. at 9); (2) he was forced to take medication while at Summit Park Hospital ( id. at 6); and (3) that he advised Dr. Yoon that he had an ulcer and was experiencing rectal bleeding but was ignored ( id. ).

Plaintiff alleges that this course of conduct amounts to a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ( id. at 7), discrimination under Rehabilitation Act § 504 ( id. at 7-8), medical malpractice, kidnaping, and battery ( id. at 8-9).


"The standard for addressing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same as that for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Cleveland v. Caplaw Enters., 448 F.3d 518, 521 (2d Cir. 2006). A Rule 12(c) motion may be granted only if the material facts are undisputed and the movant establishes an entitlement to judgment on the pleadings as a matter of law. Burns Int'l Sec. Servs., Inc. v. Int'l Union, United Plant Guard Workers of Am., 47 F.3d 14, 16 (2d Cir. 1995); Sellers v. M.C. Floor Crafters, Inc., 842 F.2d 639, 642 (2d Cir. 1988). To survive a Rule 12(c) motion, the complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entm't, 592 F.3d 314, 321 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In applying this standard, a court should accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations, but should not credit "mere conclusory statements" or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action." Id. A court should give "no effect to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations." Port Dock & Stone Corp. v. Oldcastle Ne., Inc., 507 F.3d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

Pro se pleadings are held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). They are construed "liberally" and interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Pabon v. Wright, 459 F.3d 241, 248 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). However, pro se status "does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law." Boddie v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, 285 F.Supp.2d 421, 426 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (quoting Traguth v. Zuch, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983)).



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