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.

Case v. Anderson

United States District Court, S.D. New York

August 25, 2017

ELAINE CASE, as Administratrix of the Estate of KASEEM J. PANKEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ADRIAN H. ANDERSON, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of the County of Dutchess; JOHN DOE 1 and RICHARD ROE 1, Deputy Sheriffs of the County of Dutchess; THE COUNTY OF DUTCHESS; RONALD J. SPERO, individually and in his official capacity as Chief of the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department, JOHN DOE 2 and RICHARD ROE 2, Police Officers in the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department; TOWN OF POUGHKEEPSIE; JOHN DOE 3 and RICHARD ROE 3, Police Officers and/or Dispatchers in the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department; WESTCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER HEALTH CARE CORPORATION, doing business as, WESTCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER, through its subsidiary, THE MIDHUDSON REGIONAL HOSPITAL OF WESTCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER; and CORRECTIONAL MEDICAL CARE, INC., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          NELSON S. ROMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case concerns the events surrounding the pre-trial detainment and eventual suicide of Mr. Kaseem J. Pankey, who was admitted to and escaped from a mental health facility at The MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center (the “Hospital”), later arrested by police officers from the City of Poughkeepsie (the “City”) pursuant to an outstanding criminal warrant previously issued by the Town of Poughkeepsie (the “Town”), thereafter transferred to the custody of the Town and arraigned on the warrant, and held at the County of Dutchess (the “County”) jail for two days until his death on November 26, 2014. Plaintiff Elaine Case, grandmother to the deceased and administratrix of his estate, alleges that during these events Mr. Pankey was subjected to negligence and deprivations of his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         On behalf of Mr. Pankey's estate, Plaintiff brings this action against the County, the County Sheriff Adrian H. Anderson (“Sheriff Anderson”), Deputy Sheriffs for the County John Doe (1) and Richard Roe (1) (the “County Deputies”); Correctional Medical Care, Inc. (“CMC”); the Town, the Town Chief of Police Ronald J. Spero (“Chief Spero”), Town Officers John Doe (2) and Richard Roe (2) (the “Town Officers”); the City, Police Officers and/or Dispatchers in the City Police Department John Doe (3) and Richard Roe (3) (the “City Officers”); and Westchester Medical Center Health Care Corporation, doing business as Westchester Medical Center through its subsidiary the Hospital, for the alleged violations of state and federal law. All Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or 12(c). Plaintiff has cross-moved to amend the operative complaint in order to specifically allege claims against the City Officers.[1]

         For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion to amend is GRANTED and Defendants' motions to dismiss are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Allegations[2]

         Over the span of less than a week, Kaseem J. Pankey was, as Plaintiff alleges, negligently allowed to leave the Hospital and subjected to additional negligence and deliberate indifference to his mental health problems as he was shuffled between various law enforcement agencies.

         a. Admitted to the Hospital

         On November 20, 2014, Mr. Pankey was admitted to Defendant Hospital's facilities as a psychiatric patient. (PAC ¶ 23.) At that time, he was accompanied by City of Poughkeepsie police officers (id. ¶ 53) and his grandmother, Plaintiff Elaine Case-who informed the Hospital of her relationship to Mr. Pankey and that he lived with her, and provided the Hospital with her contact information (id. ¶ 24). This was not the first time Mr. Pankey had been admitted to the Hospital as a psychiatric patient or that they were informed of his familial and living relationship with Mrs. Case. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         After he was admitted, the Hospital's mental health treatment unit diagnosed him with, among other disorders, suicidal behavior and psychosis, and provided him with medication. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) At this time, he expressed to Hospital staff members that he sought protection from “devils and their demons.” (Id. ¶ 28.) On the same day as his admission to the Hospital, the staff determined he required inpatient mental health stabilization. (Id. ¶ 30.)

         Over the course of the next two days, Mr. Pankey was agitated and disruptive during meals, refused the medication provided for him, and shouted at staff members. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) He stated his belief that he was being held hostage and made frequent requests to leave the facility. (Id. ¶ 32.) The staff determined he was “disorganized, delusional, and in need of reorienting.” (Id.) During this time, Mr. Pankey caused a number of “Code Green” events to occur-i.e., he tried to leave the facility despite the staff determining he required inpatient services. (Id. ¶ 29.)

         On November 22, 2014, after becoming increasingly unstable and agitated, stating to staff members that he was “God” and “God does not have to take meds, ” he pushed past a staff member near a safety exit door and absconded from the Hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) The Hospital issued a Code Green and staff members tried to locate Mr. Pankey, but could not. (Id. ¶ 36.)

         Plaintiff alleges the Hospital was negligent in allowing Mr. Pankey to leave the facility, for not properly restraining him, for failing to have adequate security measures in place to prevent him from leaving, for failing to supervise him, and for failing to properly medicate him. (Id. ¶ 159.)

         b. After the Escape

         After Mr. Pankey escaped, a psychiatrist employed at the Hospital issued an order pursuant to § 9.55 of the New York State Mental Hygiene Law requiring Mr. Pankey be apprehended by law enforcement authorities. (Id. ¶ 38.)[3] Hospital staff called various police agencies within the County of Dutchess, including the City of Poughkeepsie police and the Town of Poughkeepsie police. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40, 54, 57.) Plaintiff alleges the Hospital was negligent, however, because it failed to send copies of the Mental Hygiene order to all local law enforcement agencies. (Id. ¶ 159.)

         When the Defendant Town police received the call from the Hospital, they informed the staff member that he should contact the City police because Mr. Pankey's home address was within the City's jurisdiction. (Id. ¶¶ 40-41, 55.) The Town is alleged to have made no efforts to apprehend Mr. Pankey. (Id. ¶ 46.) The Hospital also contacted the Defendant City Officers, who were familiar with Mr. Pankey and knew of his psychiatric problems, and informed them that he needed to be apprehended pursuant to a Mental Hygiene order issued that day. (Id. ¶¶ 56-57.) The Hospital explained that he was a “threat to his [own] safety” and “to the safety and well-being of others[.]” (Id. ¶ 57.) Nevertheless, the City Officers made no efforts to apprehend Mr. Pankey, to return him to the Hospital, or to contact Mrs. Case. (Id. ¶ 58.)

         c. Apprehended by the City and Turned Over to the Town

         On November 25, 2014, the City Officers apprehended Mr. Pankey (id. ¶ 59), but despite their knowledge of his psychiatric history and of the Mental Hygiene order, they did not attempt to enforce the order or to contact Mrs. Case (id. ¶¶ 60-61). Instead, the City advised the Town that Mr. Pankey had been apprehended and held for arraignment. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 59.) The City turned Mr. Pankey over to the Town because of an outstanding criminal warrant, [4] and allegedly made no efforts to inform the Town of the Mental Hygiene order. (Id. ¶¶ 43, 47, 62.) Plaintiff alleges the Defendant City Officers were negligent or deliberately indifferent to Mr. Pankey's well-being as a result of these failings. (Id. ¶ 179.)

         The Defendant Town similarly, despite its own independent knowledge, did not inform the City of the Mental Hygiene order that required Mr. Pankey be returned to the Hospital. (Id. ¶ 44.) Nor did the Town contact Mrs. Case. (Id. ¶ 46.) Plaintiff alleges these failings amounted to negligence on the part of the Town (id. ¶ 164) and that the Town Officers were either negligent or deliberately indifferent to Mr. Pankey's due process rights when they failed to return him to the Hospital (id. ¶¶ 169, 172-74).

         d. Arraigned by the Town and Turned Over to the County

         The Defendant Town Officers brought Mr. Pankey to the Town Justice Court to be arraigned on the outstanding criminal warrant. (Id. ¶ 48.) During his arraignment and subsequent transfer to the Defendant County, the officers did not inform those involved that a Mental Hygiene order had been issued with regard to Mr. Pankey. (Id. ¶¶ 49-50, 63.) Plaintiff alleges the Town Officers were either negligent or deliberately indifferent to Mr. Pankey's due process rights when they failed to impart this material information to the court and the Sheriff. (Id. ¶¶ 170-74.)

         e. Detained by the Sheriff at the County Jail

         At the time that Mr. Pankey was in the custody of the County, Defendant CMC was under contract with the Sheriff's department to provide medical and mental health services to all inmates held at the jail. (Id. ¶ 101.) Thus, once Mr. Pankey was in the Defendant Sheriff's custody, he was under the care of either the Sheriff's office or CMC.[5] Mr. Pankey had been in the custody of the County Sheriff before, and on at least three prior occasions the Sheriff had been made aware of Mr. Pankey's mental illness. (Id. ¶¶ 64-66.) But once he was taken into custody by the Sheriff and placed in the County Jail on this occasion, Deputy Sheriff Shane Roth-who was neither a psychiatrist nor a mental health professional-conducted a suicide prevention screening with Mr. Pankey. (Id. ¶¶ 63, 67-69, 103-104.) Deputy Roth noted Mr. Pankey was “bipolar” and “acting strange.” (Id. ¶¶ 69, 105.) The Sheriff's office noted that he needed a psychiatric referral. (Id. ¶¶ 74, 109-10.)

         The next day, November 26, 2014, members of the Sheriff's office noted his past psychiatric history included a bipolar disorder diagnosis and that he had been hospitalized for psychiatric disorders. (Id. ¶¶ 76, 77 (the office was aware he was a “known entity in the mental health system with a diagnosis of bipolar”), ¶ 78 (aware of his history of “psychiatric illness and substance use”); see also Id. ¶¶ 112-13, 115 (same for CMC).) The Sheriff's office found Mr. Pankey to be exhibiting poor insight, judgment, and impulse control, and determined he had bipolar disorder as well as an anti-social personality disorder. (Id. ¶¶ 78, 81-82, 111, 114, 117-18.) Furthermore, during an interview with a member of the Sheriff's office, he stated that he had “escaped” from the Hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 79, 116.) At that time, the department recommended that Mr. Pankey be transferred to mental health housing and evaluated by a psychiatrist. (Id. ¶¶ 83-84, 119-20.) Unfortunately, neither of those things occurred. (Id. ¶¶ 85-87, 121-23.)

         Instead, after completing their initial assessment and interview, members of the Sheriff's office escorted him back to his cell in the County jail. (Id. ¶¶ 88-89.) During his return to his cell, Mr. Pankey complained about being touched by a Deputy Sheriff and behaved aggressively. (Id. ¶ 91.) Once he was in his cell, lying face down on his bunk, his restraints were removed and a nurse was called to medically evaluate him. (Id. ¶¶ 92-93.) But, because Mr. Pankey stood up during the evaluation, the nurse, Kimberly Stickle, was directed to leave and could not complete the examination. (Id. ¶ 94.) While in his cell and in the presence of members of the Sheriff's office, he stated that “he wanted to go home.” (Id. ¶ 90.)

         After the members of the Sheriff's office and Nurse Stickle departed, Mr. Pankey was left alone and unattended in his cell, with access to materials with which he could harm himself. (Id. ¶¶ 95, 97 (the precise materials are not described in the complaint).) Mr. Pankey proceeded to commit suicide. (Id. ¶¶ 100, 136.)

         As a result, Plaintiff alleges the County Defendants and CMC either acted negligently or pursuant to a policy of deliberate indifference to Mr. Pankey's well-being and his Due Process rights by, inter alia, failing to implement sufficient procedural safeguards to protect inmates suffering from mental illness. (Id. ¶¶ 184, 195, 204.) Plaintiff further alleges the County Deputies were deliberately indifferent as evidenced by their failing to stand guard by his cell, failing to obtain his medication, and failing to remove dangerous items from his cell. (Id. ¶ 199.)

         II. Procedural History

         Between October 20, 2015, and December 30, 2015, within 90 days of Mrs. Case being appointed as Administratrix of Mr. Pankey's estate (id. ¶ 138), Plaintiff served Notices of Claim upon the Defendant Sheriff (id. ¶ 137), the Defendant Hospital (id. ¶ 142), the Defendant City and its Police Department (id. ¶ 147), and upon the Defendant Town and its Police Department (id. ¶ 152). On February 3, 2016, a Section 50-h hearing was held pursuant to New York State General Municipal Law, where the attendees included the majority of the Defendants in this action. (See Id. ¶ 140 (Sheriff), ¶ 145 (Hospital), ¶ 150 (City), ¶ 155 (Town).) Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on February 9, 2016. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.)

         Each set of Defendants has moved to dismiss the operative complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c). (See ECF Nos. 78 (Hospital), 88 (City), 97 (County), 109 (Town), & 114 (CMC).)[6] Plaintiff has cross-moved to amend the complaint to focus her federal claims on the City Officers as opposed to the City of Poughkeepsie, though she seeks to continue her negligence claims against the City. (See ECF No. 85 & No. 86, Ex. A (proposed Third Am. Compl.), No. 94 (letter clarifying withdrawal of claims), No. 49 at ¶¶ 56-64, 179-86 (currently operative complaint asserting claims against City).)

         LEGAL STANDARDS ON A MOTION TO DISMISS AND CROSS-MOTION TO AMEND THE PLEADINGS

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c) motions to dismiss, the inquiry is whether the complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); accord Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010) (applying same standard to Rule 12(c) motions). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must supply “factual allegations sufficient ‘to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must take all material factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor, but the Court is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, '” or to credit “mere conclusory statements” or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs amendments to pleadings. After the first permissive amendment, further amendments are conditioned on either “the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave”-the latter of which should be “freely give[n] . . .when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Although the standard is lenient, “[r]easons for a proper denial of leave to amend include undue delay, bad faith, futility of amendment, and perhaps most important, the resulting prejudice to the opposing party.” State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir. 1981) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (“In the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of . . . the amendment, [or] futility of amendment-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be ‘freely given.'”)).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 provides that, “[o]n motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2) permits the joinder of persons as defendants in an action if “(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2). “According to the Supreme Court, ‘joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged, ' and ‘the impulse is toward the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties.'” Ferrara v. Smithtown Trucking Co., 29 F.Supp.3d 274, 279-80 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (quoting United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966)). “Thus, ‘[l]ike Rule 15, the requirements of Rule 20(a) should be interpreted liberally in order to enable the court to promote judicial economy by permitting all reasonably related claims for relief by or against different parties to be tried in a single proceeding.'” Id. (quoting Liegey v. Ellen Figg, Inc., No. 02 Civ. 1492 (JSM) (JCF), 2003 WL 21361724, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2003)).

         If during the proceedings the Court enters a Rule 16 scheduling order that further restricts amendments, then “the lenient standard under Rule 15(a) . . . must be balanced against the [stricter] requirement under Rule 16(b)[.]” Holmes v. Grubman, 568 F.3d 329, 334-35 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). Rule 16(b)(4) provides that “[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent, ” where “‘good cause' depends on the diligence of the moving party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4); Parker v. Columbia Pictures Indus., 204 F.3d 326, 340 (2d Cir. 2000).

         Irrespective of whether undue delay, prejudice, bad faith, or, if applicable, lack of good cause can be established, leave to amend may independently be denied “on grounds of futility if the proposed amendment fails to state a legally cognizable claim or fails to raise triable issues of fact.” AEP Energy Servs. Gas Holding Co. v. Bank of Am., N.A., 626 F.3d 699, 726 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Milanese v. Rust-Oleum Corp., 244 F.3d 104, 110-11 (2d Cir. 2001)); accord Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Foman, 371 U.S. at 182). In other words, “[a]n amendment to a pleading is futile if the proposed claim could not withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), ” or if the proposed amendments would be insufficient to support Article III standing-a threshold inquiry for courts. Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002); Treiber v. Aspen Dental Mgmt., Inc., 94 F.Supp.3d 352, 367 (N.D.N.Y. 2015), aff'd, 635 F. App'x 1 (2d Cir. 2016) (summ. order); Morrison v. Nat'l Australia Bank Ltd., 547 F.3d 167, 170 (2d Cir. 2008), aff'd, 561 U.S. 247 (2010). Thus, a court should deny a motion to amend if it does not contain enough factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face” or to demonstrate standing to bring the claim. Riverhead Park Corp. v. Cardinale, 881 F.Supp.2d 376, 379 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570) (denying motion to add claims as futile); Ashmore v. Prus, 510 F. App'x 47, 49 (2d Cir. 2013) (summ. order) (“granting leave to amend would be futile as the barriers to relief for [the alleged] claims cannot be surmounted by reframing the complaint” where inter alia plaintiff lacked standing to seek injunctive relief).

         The central inquiry for the Court when considering a motion to dismiss in tandem with a motion to amend is, therefore, whether the proposed amended complaint can survive the motion to dismiss. In determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief, a district court must consider the context and “draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. It is important to note that “pleading is not an interactive game in which plaintiffs file a complaint, and then bat it back and forth with the Court over a rhetorical net until a viable complaint emerges.” In re Merrill Lynch Ltd. P'ships Litig, 7 F.Supp.2d 256, 276 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). The court's “duty to liberally construe a plaintiff's complaint [is not] the equivalent of a duty to re-write it.” Geldzahler v. New York Medical College, 663 F.Supp.2d 379, 387 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). A claim is facially plausible when the factual content pleaded allows a court “to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff's proposed Third Amended Complaint alleges the Town Officers were negligent or deliberately indifferent to Mr. Pankey's Due Process rights (Count III) and the Town was thus also negligent (Count II), the City Officers were negligent or deliberately indifferent (Count IV) and the City was thus similarly negligent, the County and Sheriff Anderson were negligent or deliberately indifferent to Mr. Pankey's Due Process rights (Count V), the County Deputies were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Pankey's Due Process rights (Count VI), CMC was negligent or had a policy of deliberate indifference towards the Due Process rights of pre-trial detainees, such as Mr. Pankey (Count VII), and the Hospital was negligent (Count I). During the briefing of Defendants' motions to dismiss, and after proposing her latest complaint, Plaintiff has withdrawn all claims against Chief Ronald J. Knapp of the City Police Department (Pl. Opp'n City at 1) and Chief Spero of the Town Police Department (Pl. Opp'n Town at 1). Furthermore, Plaintiff has withdrawn her § 1983 claims against the City, the Town, and CMC. (See Pl. Opp'n City at 1; Pl. Opp'n Town at 1; Pl. Opp'n CMC at 1.) Plaintiff has indicated, however, that she wishes to continue her negligence claims against the City based on her allegations-made as part of the proposed amended complaint-against the City Officers. (See supra note 1.)

         The Court will address the remaining claims alleged against the various sets of Defendants starting with the federal causes of action. If Plaintiff's federal claims are plausibly alleged, exercising supplemental jurisdiction over her state law claims as they relate to the Defendants will be appropriate at this juncture.[7]

         I. Federal Claims (Section 1983)

         The gravamen of Plaintiff's federal claims concerns the conditions of Mr. Pankey's confinement, or more specifically the law enforcement agencies' responses to his mental health needs, after he escaped from the Hospital and was later detained on the unrelated criminal warrant. “A pretrial detainee's claims of unconstitutional conditions of confinement are governed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eight Amendment . . . because, pretrial detainees have not been convicted of a crime and thus may not be punished in any manner-neither cruelly and unusually nor otherwise.” Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 29 (2d Cir. 2017) (internal quotations, modifications, and citations omitted); see also Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 579 (1979) (Stevens, J., dissenting) (pretrial detainees “are innocent[s] . . . who have been convicted of no crimes[;] [t]heir claim is not that they have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, but that to subject them to any form of punishment at all is an unconstitutional deprivation of their liberty”). It thus logically follows that “[a] detainee's [Due Process] rights are ‘at least as great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to a convicted prisoner.'” Darnell, 849 F.3d at 29 (quoting City of Revere v. Massachusetts Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983)) (emphasis added).

         The duty of a state actor to protect those in state custody from harm stems from the special relationship created between the State and such an individual once the State choses to exercise plenary control over a detainee or inmate. “[I]t is the State's affirmative act of restraining [an] individual's freedom to act on his own behalf-through incarceration, institutionalization, or other similar restraint of personal liberty-which is the ‘deprivation of liberty' triggering the protections of the Due Process Clause[.]” DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200 (1989). “[W]hen the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well-being.” Id. at 199-200.

         “For example, . . . ‘[neither] prisoners [nor detainees] may [] be deprived of their basic human needs-e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety-and they may not be exposed to conditions that pose an unreasonable risk of serious damage to [their] future health.'” Darnell, 849 F.3d at 30 (quoting Jabbar v. Fischer, 683 F.3d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 2012)); see also Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976) (“deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury” violates Constitutional guarantees); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994) (same with regard to “‘deliberate indifference' to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate”). Relevant here, “[c]ourts have repeatedly held that treatment of a psychiatric or psychological condition may present a serious medical need.” Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Spavone v. New York State Dep't of Corr. Servs., 719 F.3d 127, 138 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104, and citing Langley v. Coughlin, 888 F.2d 252, 254 (2d Cir. 1989)) (the “medical needs” of prisoners or detainees includes “needs for mental health care”).

         As such, “[w]hile in custody, a pretrial detainee has a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to care and protection, including protection from suicide” resulting from a preexisting mental health disorder. Kelsey v. City of New York, 306 F. App'x 700, 702 (2d Cir. 2009). “A pretrial detainee may establish a § 1983 claim for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement”-such as the denial of mental health care-“by showing that the officers acted with deliberate indifference to the challenged conditions.” Id. (citation omitted); see also Hare v. City of Corinth, Miss., 74 F.3d 633, 648 (5th Cir. 1996) (“Most circuits have endorsed a deliberate indifference inquiry as the measure of state officials' constitutional duty to safeguard the basic human needs of pretrial detainees, including protection from suicide.”).

         Determining whether the conditions challenged rise to a “conscious shocking” level, however, requires “an exact analysis of the circumstances” in deference to the consistently limited nature of substantive due process rights. Cty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 850 (1998) (“Deliberate indifference that shocks in one environment may not be so patently egregious in another”). As the Second Circuit has recently explained:

This means that a pretrial detainee must satisfy two prongs to prove a claim, an “objective prong” showing that the challenged conditions were sufficiently serious to constitute objective deprivations of the right to due process, and a “subjective prong”- perhaps better classified as a “mens rea prong” or “mental element prong”-showing that the officer acted with at least deliberate indifference to the challenged conditions.

Darnell, 849 F.3d at 29. Plaintiff's allegations in this case are that the various law enforcement Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Pankey's mental health needs when they failed to enforce the Mental Hygiene order, failed to inform others of the issuance of the order, and failed to provide him treatment or medication for his mental illness.

         a. Seriousness of the Alleged Deprivation of Medical Care

         “There is no ‘static test' to determine whether a deprivation is sufficiently serious; instead, ‘the conditions themselves must be evaluated in light of contemporary standards of decency.'” Darnell, 849 F.3d at 30 (quoting Blissett v. Coughlin, 66 F.3d 531, 537 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981))). “This inquiry requires the court to examine how the offending conduct is inadequate and what harm, if any, the inadequacy has caused or will likely cause the prisoner.” Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 280 (2d Cir. 2006). “For example, if the unreasonable medical care is a failure to provide any treatment for an inmate's medical condition, courts examine whether the inmate's medical condition is sufficiently serious.” Id. Courts may also consider whether “a temporary delay or interruption in the provision of otherwise adequate medical treatment” constitutes deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm. Id.

         In cases of alleged delay, “the seriousness inquiry is ‘narrower, ' and focuses on the particular risk of harm that resulted from the delay or interruption in treatment rather than the severity of the [plaintiff's] underlying medical condition.” Hamm v. Hatcher, No. 05 Civ. 503 (ER), 2013 WL 71770, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 7, 2013) (quoting Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at 280 (quoting Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 185 (2d Cir. 2003))). A claim of an unconstitutional delay or interruption in treatment is only cognizable if it “reflects deliberate indifference to a serious risk of health or safety, to a life-threatening or fast-degenerating condition[, ] or to some other condition of extreme pain that might be alleviated through reasonably prompt treatment.” Amaker v. Coombe, No. 96 Civ. 1622 (JGK), 2002 WL 523388, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2002). “[I]n most cases, the actual medical consequences that flow from the alleged denial of care will be highly relevant to the question of whether the denial of treatment subjected the prisoner to a significant risk of serious harm.” Smith, 316 F.3d at 187-88.

         Here, as discussed below with regard to whether the law enforcement agencies were indifferent to Mr. Pankey's needs, none of the agencies are alleged to have taken any actions[8]related to Mr. Pankey's mental health care aside from the Sheriff's diagnostic inquiries directed at determining if he was in fact a suicide risk. Cf. Leandry v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 352 F. App'x 214, 216 (9th Cir. 2009) (plaintiff with serious mental health needs “was seen repeatedly by jail medical staff, all of whom determined that his symptoms were inconsistent with bipolar disorder”). Therefore, the inquiry for the Court is whether Mr. Pankey was either suffering from a condition that was per se sufficiently serious such that the denial of treatment could have led to serious harm, or-if the officers' alleged decisions to disregard the Mental Hygiene order is construed as a decision to delay his treatment-was subject to “a life-threatening or fast-degenerating condition or to some other condition of extreme pain that might [have] be[en] alleviated through reasonably prompt treatment.” See Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at 280; Amaker, 2002 WL 523388, at *8; see also Liscio v. Warren, 901 F.2d 274, 277 (2d Cir. 1990) (considering the mistreatment of alcohol withdrawal, a “condition [that] was both life-threatening and fast-degenerating”).

         A detainee, or a prisoner, need not actually commit suicide to have been suffering from a serious medical condition. See Young v. Choinski, 15 F.Supp.3d 172, 184 (D. Conn. 2014) (“case law within this Circuit recognizes that ‘depression combined with severe anxiety attacks or suicide attempts is a serious medical need'”) (emphasis added); Barnes v. Ross, 926 F.Supp.2d 499, 506 (W.D.N.Y. 2013) (propensity to harm oneself or attempt suicide viewed as “sufficiently serious”); Hale v. Rao, 768 F.Supp.2d 367, 378 (N.D.N.Y. 2011) (inmate's mental illness coupled with verbalized suicidal desires sufficiently serious); Allah v. Kemp, No. 08 Civ. 1008 (NAM) (GHL), 2010 WL 1036802, at *6 n.9 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 25, 2010) (failure to provide plaintiff with a mental health evaluation, notwithstanding his attempted suicide three days earlier, was enough to meet “sufficiently serious” standard); Zimmerman v. Burge, No. 06 Civ. 0176 (GLS) (GHL), 2009 WL 3111429, at *8 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2009) (collecting cases from other circuits) (inmate, diagnosed with depression by prison officials, who harbored potentially suicidal thoughts “suffered from a sufficiently serious medical need”); Sims v. Daley, No. 95 Civ. 3239 (LAP), 1997 WL 33608, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 29, 1997) (“hearing voices and experiencing suicidal thoughts” with a history of mental illness was a serious medical need).

         Indeed, even serious mental disorders that do not exhibit suicidal ideations qualify as sufficiently serious. See, e.g., Harvey v. Sawyer, No. 09 Civ. 0598 (FJS) (DRH), 2010 WL 3323665, at *7 (N.D.N.Y. July 22, 2010), report and recommendation adopted, 2010 WL 3323669 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2010) (inmate “undoubtedly suffering from a serious medical need, whether from bipolar disorder or paranoid schizophrenia”); Guarneri v. Hazzard, No. 06 Civ. 0985 (NAM) (DRH), 2008 WL 552872, at *6 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2008) (inmate suffering from PTSD, bipolar disorder, and depression sufficiently alleged “a serious medical need as a result of his mental illnesses”); Leandry, 352 F. App'x at 216 (inmate's mental health needs were serious whether he suffered from bipolar disorder or intermittent explosive disorder); Olsen v. Layton Hills Mall, 312 F.3d 1304, 1316 (10th Cir. 2002) (court assumed, after discussing the severe impact obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can have on an individual, that it “qualifies as ‘sufficiently serious'”); Page v. Norvell, 186 F.Supp.2d 1134, 1137 (D. Or. 2000) (court assumed medical need was sufficiently serious due to inmate's diagnosed bipolar disorder).

         Nevertheless, “[i]t goes without saying that ‘[s]uicide is a serious harm, '” which may result from a mental disorder. See Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733-34 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted); Silvera v. Conn. Dept. of Corr., 726 F.Supp.2d 183, 191-92 (D. Conn. 2010) (plaintiff who suffered from severe mental health issues, was an acute suicide risk, and ultimately committed suicide due to acts and omissions of prison medical staff, was found to have demonstrated a sufficiently serious medical need); Guglielmoni v. Alexander, 583 F.Supp. 821, 826 (D. Conn. 1984) (court concluded that “[t]reatment of mental disorders of mentally disturbed inmates [was] a ‘serious medical need' under Estelle” in case where inmate repeatedly tried and eventually succeeded in committing suicide). Therefore, no matter whether the denial of treatment alleged here constitutes “a failure to provide any treatment” or “a temporary delay” in the provision of what would otherwise have been adequate treatment, the specific risk of self-harm to which Mr. Pankey was subject as a result of his bipolar disorder demonstrates the seriousness of his medical condition.

         “In this case, not only was there a risk of serious harm but that harm actually materialized-[Mr. Pankey] committed suicide. It would be difficult to think of a more serious deprivation than to be deprived of life[.]” Sanville, 266 F.3d at 733-34 (thus inmate clearly “demonstrated a serious medical need”); cf. Moots v. Lombardi, 453 F.3d 1020, 1023 (8th Cir. 2006) (inmate failed to allege suffering harm as a result of temporary delay in treatment for his bipolar disorder when he was transferred to solitary confinement). As the preceding examples demonstrate, the fact that the symptoms he exhibited while in the custody of the various law enforcement agencies may have fallen short of announcing his suicidal intentions does not reduce the seriousness of Mr. Pankey's medical needs. His alleged condition was not only per se serious, it was life-threatening, as confirmed by the hospital's decision to issue the Mental Hygiene order in the first place. See N.Y. Mental Hyg. Law § 9.55 (McKinney) (empowering a qualified psychiatrist to issue such an order upon a determination that the individual in question “appears to have a mental illness for which immediate observation, care and treatment in a hospital is appropriate and which is likely to result in serious harm to himself or herself or others”) (emphasis added); Project Release v. Prevost, 722 F.2d 960, 966 (2d Cir. 1983) (“for a person to be admitted as an emergency involuntary patient under section 9.39, he must have ‘a mental illness . . . which is likely to result in serious harm to himself or others'”).

         Therefore, on the basis of the allegations in the complaint, Plaintiff has plausibly alleged that Mr. Pankey suffered from a serious medical condition that carried with it a serious risk of ...


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.