Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mitchell v. Siersma

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 14, 2017

PATRICK MICHAEL MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT SIERSMA, Defendants.

          DECISION & ORDER

          MARIAN W. PAYSON United States Magistrate Judge.

         On September 7, 2016, plaintiff Patrick Mitchell (“Mitchell”) moved to preclude discovery of his mental health history and treatment.[1] (Docket # 52). Defendants opposed the motion. (Docket ## 55, 56). Following oral argument on October 27, 2016, and in accordance with the Court's directions at argument, the parties submitted supplemental affidavits, which this Court has reviewed. (Docket ## 58-60). For the reasons explained below, Mitchell's motion is granted.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Mitchell filed this action on July 15, 2013, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting claims against all of the defendants for unlawful arrest and imprisonment, illegal entry into his dwelling, and falsification of an arrest report, and claims against defendants Dunham, Donovan and the Village of Penn Yan for malicious prosecution. (Docket # 30). Mitchell alleges that defendants Siersma and Soprano, Investigators with the Monroe County District Attorney's Office, and defendant Dunham, a Sergeant with the Penn Yan Police Department, entered his apartment in Yates County without his permission, representing that they had a warrant, although they did not produce it. (Id. at 4). He was handcuffed and transported from Yates County to Monroe County, where he was incarcerated for three days before being released on bail. (Id.). Mitchell further alleges that Siersma falsified the arrest report by indicating that Mitchell had been arrested in Rochester. (Id.). He claims that Donovan, an Investigator with the PennYan Police Department, threatened him with unlawful arrest and provided incomplete information to defendant Siersma that led to Mitchell's unlawful arrest. (Id.). In his second claim, Mitchell alleges that the Village of Penn Yan failed to adequately train Dunham and Donovan. (Id. at 4).

         Mitchell claims that he suffered emotional distress as a result of the events at issue in this lawsuit. (Docket # 52 at 1). During his deposition, Mitchell testified that he had treated with a psychiatrist for emotional injuries he sustained as a result of defendants' conduct. (Docket # 55 at ¶ 6). He refused to answer follow-up questions relating to the matters he discussed with his psychiatrist. (Docket ## 55 at ¶ 6; 55-1). He did testify that since his arrest, he “always, always, always [has to] make sure the outside door [to his apartment] is latched.” (Docket # 55-1 at 3).

         Following his deposition, Mitchell filed the pending motion for an order precluding further discovery, including production of his mental health records, on the grounds that such evidence is protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege. (Docket # 52). In his motion, he represents that he “does not plan to present any expert witness [testimony] regarding claims for mental or emotional [distress].” (Docket # 52). At oral argument, Mitchell stated that he was only seeking “garden variety” emotional distress damages. (Docket # 60). Following argument, Mitchell submitted a signed statement, representing:

1. I understand that my claim for emotional distress damages is limited to “garden variety” emotional distress damages, meaning nothing more than the distress that any healthy, well-adjusted person would likely feel as a result of the challenged actions;
2. I will not claim at trial that I suffered severe emotional distress or a diagnosed mental health condition;
3. I will not offer at trial any psychological or medical testimony or records to support my clams of emotional distress, including my own testimony that I sought treatment from a mental health professional; and,
4. I withdraw any prior claim for physical injury or non-garden variety emotional distress damages.

(Id.).

         Defendants oppose Mitchell's motion for a protective order, arguing that Mitchell's claimed emotional distress is more severe than garden variety distress - a fact that results in a waiver of the psychotherapist-patient privilege. (Docket # 59). They argue that the changes in his behavior following his arrest and incarceration that persist to the present day - “most notabl[y] his continuing to lock doors” - are inconsistent with garden variety distress. (Id. at 2). In other words, defendants contend that Mitchell, despite his representation to the contrary, is indeed seeking to recover damages for emotional distress beyond “garden variety” distress, thus entitling defendants to pursue discovery relating to his mental health treatment. (Id.).

         DISCUSSION

         I addressed and thoroughly discussed the applicability and contours of the psychotherapist privilege to emotional distress claims in E.E.O.C. v. Nichols Gas & Oil, Inc., 256 F.R.D. 114, 118-21 (W.D.N.Y. 2009). I continue to adhere to the reasoning articulated in Nichols. See also Misas v. North-Shore Long Island Jewish Health Sys., 2016 WL 4082718, *3-5 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (citing Nichols with approval); Briganti v. Conn. Tech. High Sch. Sys., 2015 WL 728518, *4-5 (D. Conn. 2015) (same); Jacobs v. Conn. Cmty. Tech. Coll., 258 F.R.D. 192, 195-97 (D. Conn. 2009) (same). As in Nichols, plaintiff “has explicitly disavowed any emotional distress claims other than garden variety claims”[2] and “does not intend to offer at trial any psychological or medical testimony or records to support [his] claims of emotional distress.” E.E.O.C v. Nichols Gas & Oil, Inc., 256 F.R.D. at 121. As described above, Mitchell has submitted a signed statement to the Court explicitly limiting his emotional distress claims to those for “garden variety” emotional distress, agreeing that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.