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Rodgers v. Rensselaer County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 17, 2015


TULLY, RINCKEY, PLLC DAVID A. FALLON, ESQ., Albany, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

CARTER, CONBOY, CASE, BLACKMORE, MALONEY & LAIRD, P.C. JAMES A. RESILA, ESQ., Albany, New York, Attorneys for Defendants Rensselaer County Sheriff's Department, Jack Mahar, and Katrina Dinan.

LUIBRAND LAW FIRM, PLLC, KEVIN A. LUIBRAND, ESQ., Latham, New York, Attorneys for Defendant Elaine Young.


MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.


On September 22, 2014, Kevin Rodgers (hereinafter "Plaintiff"), a corrections officer at Rensselaer County Jail ("RCJ"), commenced this action against Defendants Rensselaer County Sheriff's Department (hereinafter "RCSD"), Rensselaer County Sheriff Jack Mahar (hereinafter "Mahar"), and registered nurses Katrina Dinan and Elaine Young (hereinafter "Dinan" and "Young"). See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 when they accessed his medical records without his consent. See id. at ¶¶ 14, 26. Plaintiff named as Defendants Mahar, Dinan, and Young in their individual capacities, as well as Mahar in his official capacity. Further, Plaintiff asserts a municipal liability claim against RCSD for acting pursuant to custom or policy and/or for failing to adequately train, supervise, or discipline employees Dinan and Young. See id. at ¶¶ 24, 26, 30, 31, 36, 37.

Currently before the Court are Defendants RCSD, Mahar, and Dinan's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Plaintiff's cross-motion to amend the complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. Nos. 16-1, 35-2.


A. Plaintiff's Original Complaint

Plaintiff was employed by RCSD as a corrections officer from 1990-1996 and then again from 2003 until the present. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 7. Plaintiff asserts that in March of 2013, he received notice from Samaritan Hospital that his medical records had been accessed on multiple occasions without Plaintiff's consent by Defendants Dinan and Young. Id. at ¶¶ 8-10. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Dinan and Young are authorized as RCJ nurses to access the hospital's electronic medical record system in order to retrieve inmate's records but that they exceeded their authority when they accessed Plaintiff's records. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 24. Plaintiff brings this action under § 1983 for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy. Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Mahar should have known, knew, or even directed Defendants Dinan and Young to access his records. Id. at ¶¶ 14, 24, 27.

Plaintiff also brings this claim against RCSD and Sheriff Mahar alleging a pattern and practice at RCJ of high ranking officials improperly accessing computer databases in order to obtain employee's personal and medical information. Id. at ¶¶ 14, 15, 32. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Mahar used his medical information in an attempt to terminate him in 2004 and that other employees were subjected to similar actions. Id. at ¶ 13. Finally, Plaintiff states that the County failed to adequately train, supervise, and/or discipline Defendants Dinan and Young for exceeding their authority, demonstrating a deliberate indifference to constitutional violations against employees. Id. at ¶¶ 35, 36, 38. The original complaint contained forth and fifth causes of action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Computer Frauds and Abuse Act ("CFFA"), which have subsequently been withdrawn. 42 U.S.C. § 12112; 18 U.S.C. § 1030; Dkt. No. 22-1 at 12.

B. Defendants RCSD, Mahar and Dinan's 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

On November 24, 2014, Defendants RCSD, Mahar, and Dinan filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 16-1. First, Defendants argue that RCSD should be dismissed as a party because a sheriff's department is not a suitable entity under § 1983. See Dkt. No. 16-1 at 12. Next, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Monell claims must be dismissed because the complaint fails to plausibly allege a pattern, policy, or custom of accessing employees' private information. Id. at 14. Further, Defendants argue that the failure to train and supervise claims must be dismissed because the facts indicate that this was merely an isolated incident about which Defendant Mahar and RCSD had no reason to know. Id. at 16.

C. Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

On December 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' 12(b)(6) motion. Dkt. No. 22-1. Plaintiff reasserts and offers further arguments in support of counts one, two, and three of the complaint and withdraws counts four and five. Id. at 12. Plaintiff also requests that the Court either direct the Clerk to amend the caption of the complaint listing RCSD as a Defendant or grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint to name the "County of Rensselaer" as a party instead because

where a municipality has received notice of the suit against it, and the caption erroneously lists a subdivision of the municipality rather than the municipality itself, it is appropriate to correct the caption of the complaint to identify the municipality as the party defendant, so long as the municipality will not be prejudiced by such substitution.

Id. at 2 (citation omitted). Finally, Plaintiff submits that the original complaint is sufficient but requests that, if the Court finds otherwise, that it grant him leave to amend the complaint. Id. at 13.

D. Defendants' Reply

In their reply, Defendants again allege that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Dkt. No. 25 at 2. Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to identify a constitutional right that was violated, as required under § 1983. Id. at 7. Further, Defendants assert that unauthorized access to medical records could be construed as a HIPPA violation ...

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