United States District Court, S.D. New York
REDACTED OPINION AND ORDER
KATHERINE POLK FAILLA United States District Judge.
of the gravity of such an event, New York law establishes
detailed procedures for hospitalizing an individual against
his or her will. One such procedure, codified in New York
Mental Hygiene Law (“MHL”) § 9.37, allows a
hospital to “receive and care for” any person
who, “in the opinion of the director of community
services or the director's designee, has a mental illness
for which immediate inpatient care and treatment” is
appropriate and that is “likely to result in serious
harm to” him or herself or others.
October 22, 2009, Plaintiff Gregory Jackson was involuntarily
hospitalized pursuant to MHL § 9.37 after he displayed
alarming behavior to, among many others, numerous medical
professionals from whom he received treatment. In 2012,
Plaintiff brought this action against several physicians
involved in his hospitalization and the receiving hospital,
seeking damages for alleged violations of (i) the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (ii) the Rehabilitation
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and (iii) New York's
common-law tort of medical malpractice.
extensive discovery, as well as a lengthy delay occasioned by
the bankruptcy filing of the receiving hospital, Defendants
have moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's
claims. Plaintiff opposes the motions except as they pertain
to his Rehabilitation Act claim, which he now abandons. As
set forth in the remainder of this Opinion, all but one of
the Defendants were not acting on behalf of the State when
making decisions about Plaintiff's condition and
treatment, and the remaining Defendant is subject to
qualified immunity for his conduct. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's federal claims fail, and the Court declines
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
parties quibble over many of the factual details underlying
Plaintiff's background and hospitalization. While none
rises to the level of a genuine dispute of material fact, the
Court discusses both parties' accounts when and to the
extent they diverge.
most significant source of information concerning Plaintiff
comes not from his sworn statements, but from his “Core
History, ” a document assembled by the New York State
Office of Mental Health (“OMH”) and available to
certain healthcare professionals. As discussed below, this
document contains highly relevant information regarding
Plaintiff's psychiatric, criminal, and personal
Plaintiff's Psychiatric History
now 55 years old, has an extensive history of psychiatric
illness [redacted]. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶
1, 15-16). [Redacted]. Despite these serious diagnoses,
Plaintiff has a history of failing to comply with medical
treatment directives, including the taking of medication,
leading to numerous inpatient hospitalizations. (Id.
at ¶ 2).
his medical history precludes him from contesting the fact of
these psychiatric hospitalizations, Plaintiff vigorously
disputes certain ancillary details. For example,
Plaintiff's medical records state that in 1987, Plaintiff
assaulted a coworker, consequently lost his job, and was
hospitalized at Prince George Hospital in Maryland for two
weeks. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 17). Plaintiff
acknowledges that he was involved in a shoving match at work,
but insists that he neither lost his job nor was hospitalized
after the incident. (See id.).
April to May of 1989, Plaintiff was hospitalized for
approximately two weeks at the Hudson River Psychiatric
Center (“HRPC”) “for [redacted]
behavior.” (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 19). In June 1990,
Plaintiff was readmitted to HRPC for a similar length of
time, in this instance for assaulting his wife and
threatening his neighbors. (See Id. at ¶ 20).
Plaintiff admits that he kicked his wife but denies
threatening his neighbors, stating that he “never
threatened to cause harm, ” but only played music
loudly over his neighbors' objections. (Pl. Aff. ¶
57; see Id. at ¶ 55). Plaintiff's records
indicate that upon admission, “he was [redacted],
” and when asked about his interactions with his wife
stated, “I tried to instill a little fear in her,
that's all.” (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶ 21-22). In
connection with the instant motions, Plaintiff contends that
this quote was taken out of context, and that he made this
statement in relation to a “feigned suicide
attempt” purported to invoke pity in his wife so that
she would financially support him. (Id. at ¶
February 1991, Plaintiff was again admitted at HRPC, this
time for approximately three weeks. (See Pl. 56.1
Opp. ¶ 23). Plaintiff's medical history states that
this hospitalization resulted after he assaulted his wife,
but he denies this incident. (Id.). Upon admission,
Plaintiff was [redacted], but Plaintiff contests that he
displayed any behavior warranting such treatment. (See
Id. at ¶ 24).
1992, Plaintiff was admitted to HRPC from May 27 to July 22
“because of [redacted] behavior” after an
altercation with his wife when she served him with a
separation order. (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 25). Plaintiff
contends such service never occurred, “and hence, [he]
could not have been agitated in response to this
action.” (Id.). Nevertheless, Plaintiff does
not dispute that during his admission, he was [redacted].
(See Id. at ¶¶ 26-27).
2006, Plaintiff was hospitalized for one week “due to
[redacted]. (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 28). Later that same year,
from October 19 to December 29, Plaintiff was admitted to
Defendant Saint Francis Hospital (“Saint
Francis”) in Poughkeepsie, New York [redacted].
(Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff was thereafter
involuntarily transferred to HRPC for a period of time that
the record does not specify. (See Id. at ¶ 31).
Plaintiff's Criminal History
criminal history, as presented in his Core History, consists
of six arrests and four convictions, spanning from 1984 to
2009. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 35).
of Plaintiff's convictions involve forceful or
destructive behavior. On January 19, 2008, Plaintiff was
charged with burglary but later pled guilty to a lesser
offense of criminal trespass. (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶
36-37). On February 23, 2009, Plaintiff was charged with
criminal mischief with intent to damage property after
vandalizing the exterior of a building. (See Id. at
¶ 32). The charges were dismissed in March 2009 upon a
finding that Plaintiff was incapacitated [redacted]. (See
id.; see also N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law §
730.40 (establishing procedure for finding incapacity to
stand trial and remand to care of OMH)). On February 23,
2009, Plaintiff was also charged with criminal mischief and
damaging another person's property in excess of $250.
(See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 40). These charges were
also dismissed in March 2009 after Plaintiff was found
incapacitated. (Id. at ¶ 41).
Core History also evinces, with varying degrees of detail,
his participation in a number of crimes involving theft or
fraud. In November 2000, Plaintiff was charged with criminal
possession of stolen property, a charge to which he later
pled guilty. (See Barden Decl., Ex. N, at 3). On
December 10 and 19, 2002, Plaintiff was charged with carrying
out a scheme to defraud, though his Core History does not
provide the details of the scheme or the ultimate resolution
of these charges. (See id.). In November 2003,
Plaintiff was charged with criminal impersonation, to which
he later pled guilty and for which he was sentenced to three
years' probation. (Id.). And in April and
October 2008, Plaintiff was charged with issuing bad checks;
the Core History does not indicate the resolution of these
charges. (Id. at 4).
Plaintiff's History of Substance Abuse
Core History recites that in the late 1980s to early
'90s, Plaintiff's drug and alcohol abuse, coupled
with [redacted], resulted in “numerous admissions to
HRPC.” (Barden Decl., Ex. N, at 5). Plaintiff has also
been [redacted] (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 33), and his Core
History states that he “reports extensive use of crack
cocaine and marijuana and has had 2 DWI's in his early
20's as a result of drinking” (Barden Decl., Ex. N,
at 6). After Plaintiff's week-long
hospitalization in May 2006, he began outpatient treatment
but did not consistently comply, leading to a relapse of
crack cocaine use in August 2006. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp.
¶¶ 29, 34). According to Plaintiff, he last used
cocaine in 2008. (Id. at ¶ 33).
Events Preceding Plaintiff's October 2009 Involuntary
events leading up to Plaintiff's involuntary
hospitalization on October 22, 2009, involve numerous
interactions with psychiatric support specialists, healthcare
providers, and other professionals. Several of these
individuals were affiliated with New York State and local
governments. Of note, however, the hospital to which
Plaintiff was admitted was private, as were its employees.
Dutchess County's Involuntary Hospitalization
Mitchell Barden, M.D., was the initial medical professional
who completed an MHL § 9.37 application to have
Plaintiff evaluated for hospitalization. (See Barden
56.1 ¶¶ 102-03). In October 2009, Dr. Barden was an
OMH psychiatrist employed at HRPC. (See Id. at
¶ 3). In this capacity, Dr. Barden was the leader and
decision-maker for the Dutchess County Mobile Crisis Team
(“MCT”), a state-operated entity of healthcare
professionals dispatched to sites within the County to
address psychiatric crises. (See Id. at ¶¶
specifically, after receiving a dispatch referral, Dr. Barden
was responsible for determining whether an individual
satisfied MHL § 9.37 by presenting sufficient danger to
require hospitalization and further psychiatric evaluation.
(See Barden Dep. 17:17-23). Upon such determination,
police or other authorities would apprehend the individual
and transport him or her to a hospital for psychiatric
evaluation in accordance with MHL § 9.37. (See
Id. at 20:23-21:11).
The Dutchess County Psychiatric Helpline
dispatches its healthcare professionals based on referrals
from a 24-hour Helpline operated by the Dutchess County
Department of Mental Hygiene. (See Barden Dep.
20:15-21:11). The Helpline also provides counseling and a
contact point for psychiatric emergency services. (Stern Dep.
8:12-21). At the time of Plaintiff's hospitalization,
Helpline Clinical Unit Administrator John Stern was
responsible for referring individuals for involuntary
hospitalization evaluations. (Id. at 7:18-8:21).
described Plaintiff as “a frequent caller to
Helpline” (Stern Dep. 19:18), and Plaintiff does not
dispute that he called “[m]any times” (Pl. Dep.
96:8). Indeed, Stern testified that Plaintiff called so often
that it “significantly interfered with [Helpline's]
operation.” (Stern Dep. 20:12-14). According to Stern,
Plaintiff would often express hostility toward Helpline
staff, such as threatening lawsuits, causing Stern to be
“frightened for [his] safety, and … for the
safety of the staff.” (Id. at 66:23-67:5).
Assertive Community Treatment
Community Treatment (“ACT”) is an intensive,
outpatient psychiatric program that treats patients who
require frequent hospitalization and home visits.
(See Barden Dep. 25:14-21; Stern Dep. 58:24-25). In
June 2009, ACT admitted and began providing outpatient
services to Plaintiff. (See Pl. Dep. 248:10-249:12).
On October 14, 2009, however, Dr. Stacyann Hahn, Director of
ACT, completed a memo stating that Plaintiff “would be
discharged from the ACT team immediately” because he
was not cooperating with treatment and was becoming
[redacted]. (Barden Decl., Ex. O; see Barden Dep.
27:6-7, 28:13-14). This memo was then forwarded to Dr.
Barden. (See Barden Dep. 27:4-22). Somewhat
presciently, Dr. Barden received word from ACT during this
time that he might one day need to dispatch the MCT to pick
up Plaintiff because Plaintiff was [redacted]. (See
Id. at 26:19-27:3, 29:22-30:5).
Plaintiff's Visit to the Dutchess County Executive's
week after his discharge from the ACT program, on October 22,
2009, Plaintiff visited the Dutchess County Executive's
Office. Plaintiff concedes that during that entire month, he
was suffering from [redacted]. (Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶¶
48-49). He further acknowledges that he did not sleep at all
the preceding evening. (Id. at ¶ 47).
diverge as to the tenor and extent of Plaintiff's
interactions with employees at the office. The first person
Plaintiff encountered was Donna Lehnert, a budget assistant
in the Dutchess County Budget Office, which shared office
space with the Dutchess County Executive. (See
Lehnert Dep. 6:23-7:13). Among other duties, Lehnert was
responsible for greeting visitors of both offices, and her
desk sat alone in a front entrance room. (See Id. at
to Lehnert, she received a phone call from Plaintiff on the
morning of October 22 in which he requested to meet with the
County Executive; when Lehnert informed Plaintiff that the
County Executive was unavailable and asked if she could take
a message, Plaintiff stated “he had something to show
[the County Executive] … regarding Mental
Hygiene.” (Lehnert Dep. 14:8-14). Within an hour of the
call, Plaintiff arrived at the office and requested to
schedule a meeting with the County Executive. (Id.
at 14:15-18, 15:12-13). When Lehnert stated that the County
Executive was unavailable, Plaintiff “got agitated and
… started walking and pacing and talking to
himself” before having a seat and repeatedly opening,
looking into, and closing a briefcase. (Id. at
15:14-22). Lehnert tried to obtain information from Plaintiff
to schedule an appointment, but Plaintiff “got upset[,
] … started pacing[, ] and [said] he wanted to wait
for” the County Executive. (Id. at
behavior frightened Lehnert: “His behavior was
threatening. … He was talking to himself, he was
pacing and he kept looking in a dark briefcase. It was scary.
It's threatening.” (Lehnert Dep. 21:21,
21:24-22:1). While Plaintiff was still in the office, Lehnert
emailed a coworker to request security personnel.
(Id. at 18:8-11). In the meantime, Plaintiff began
reading pamphlets available in the office, continued opening
and closing his briefcase, and began “mumbling to
himself.” (Id. at 18:17-24). After Lehnert
sent a second email to her coworker, the coworker came to
Lehnert's office, questioned Plaintiff, and left.
(See Id. at 19:4-18).
time security arrived, Plaintiff had exited. (See
Lehnert Dep. 20:8-12). With Plaintiff gone, Lehnert called
the Deputy Sheriff on duty in the building to inform him that
she neither wanted Plaintiff to return to the office nor
wanted to be alone. (Id. at 23:22-24:7). Lehnert
then called the Helpline to inform John Stern that Plaintiff
had visited the office; Lehnert also asked Stern whether
Plaintiff was violent. (See Id. at
approximately 9:45 a.m., Stern called Dr. Barden and warned
him that the MCT might need to evaluate Plaintiff for
hospitalization. (See Barden Dep. 31:8-17). During
the call, Stern indicated that Plaintiff
was harassing [someone] at the County Executive's office,
that he had been there earlier that day and had to be
escorted out, that in the past he had often frequented that
office and had to be escorted out by security, that he was
refusing medication and treatment, that he was hostile
towards Mr. Stern and [Helpline] staff, [redacted], and
… that [he] was making threats towards the Helpline
(Id. at 31:21-32:8). Stern also informed Dr. Barden
that in the past, when Plaintiff “refused medication[,
he] had a history of becoming [redacted], and that at [that]
time [Plaintiff] was refusing all treatment and
medication.” (Id. at 32:16-20).
that day, Stern completed a Mobile Team Referral form,
requesting the MCT to evaluate Plaintiff. (See Stern
Dep. 39:21-40:3; Barden Decl., Ex. P). The reason for
referral, as Stern handwrote in the form, was that
[redacted]. (Stern Dep. 40:17-20; see Barden Decl.,
Ex. P). The form instructed the MCT to “[e]valuate
[Plaintiff] for hospitalization.” (Stern Dep. 40:20-21;
see Barden Decl., Ex. P).
tells a different story. According to him, on the morning of
October 22, he never called the County Executive's
Office, but merely visited to make an appointment with and
obtain the name and phone number of someone who could help
him obtain records from HRPC to support an ongoing lawsuit
against the psychiatric center. (See Pl. Aff.
¶¶ 23-24; Pl. Dep. 66:14-67:2). While he was at the
office, the County Executive entered Lehnert's office and
asked Plaintiff to present a letter from HRPC denying him
access to the records he sought. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 26).
Plaintiff responded that he only wanted the name and number
of someone who could help him, and he promptly left after
receiving that information and sitting in the office to rest
for a short time. (See Id. at ¶¶ 26-29).
In further contrast to Lehnert's testimony and
Stern's report, Plaintiff states that he only opened his
briefcase once to store a brochure from the office, and he
denies pacing or threatening anyone while he was there.
(Id. at ¶¶ 28-29).
Plaintiff's Interaction with Dr. Barden
receiving the referral from Stern, Dr. Barden reviewed
Plaintiff's Core History and, based on this review along
with the information received from Stern and ACT members,
determined that Plaintiff was at “a very high risk of
being [redacted] towards others.” (Barden Dep. 38:3-14;
see Id. at 26:19-27:14). Before Dr. Barden or the
MCT could examine Plaintiff per the referral form, however,
Plaintiff unexpectedly appeared at Dr. Barden's office at
around 11:00 a.m. (See Pl. 56.1 Opp. ¶ 89).
Plaintiff has explained that he went to Dr. Barden's
office at the direction of the Director of Community
Services, who informed Plaintiff that Dr. Barden was a
psychiatrist who could administer prescription antipsychotic
medication. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 31).
again, the parties provide differing accounts of events.
According to Plaintiff, his interaction with Dr. Barden
lasted less than a minute. (See, e.g., Pl. Aff.
¶ 33; Pl. Dep. 70:14-16 (“I saw him for about 24
seconds and I left[.]”)).
explained that he eschewed Dr. Barden's professional
services because the doctor looked unprofessional. (Pl. Aff.
¶ 32). Plaintiff further describes their encounter as
I walked in and asked “are you Dr. Barden?” Dr.
Barden replied “yes.” I then stated “I will
let you know if I want to be treated by you.” Dr.
Barden said “wait.” I replied “I'm
leaving.” Dr. Barden again said ...