United States District Court, W.D. New York
ROCHELLE M. JONES and JAMES L. THOMAS, Plaintiffs,
CRISIS SERVICES OF ERIE COUNTY, “SHERRY W., ” “MANDY M., ” “R.G., ” JULIAN HARRIS, MYLINDA MCCREADY, ERIE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER, RICARDO ROMERO, M.D., WON HOON PARK, M.D., ALFONSO TAN, M.D., BUFFALO POLICE DEPARTMENT, BUFFALO POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOE 1, BUFFLO POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOE 2, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 21, 2016, Plaintiffs Rochelle M. Jones and James L.
Thomas filed a Complaint alleging various claims against
Defendants stemming from Jones's involuntary commitment
at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) under New York's
Mental Hygiene Law (MHL). See ECF No. 1.
two months later, on May 5, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an Amended
Complaint. ECF No. 3. Plaintiffs never served the original
Complaint on any of the Defendants before filing the Amended
Complaint. The Amended Complaint alleged facts similar to the
original Complaint and eleven claims: (1) Defendants Crisis
Services of Erie County (CSEC), Sherry W., Mandy M., R.G.,
and Julian Harris conspired to deprive Jones of her civil
rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3); (2) CSEC,
Sherry W., Mandy M., R.G., Harris, and Buffalo Police
Officers John Doe 1 and 2 violated Jones's Fourth
Amendment rights in turn violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3)
CSEC, Sherry W., Mandy M., R.G., Harris, Buffalo Police
Officers John Doe 1 and 2, Ricardo Romero, M.D., Won Hoon
Park, M.D., and Alfonso Tan, M.D., violated Jones's due
process rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment,
also violating § 1983; (4) CSEC, Sherry W., Mandy M.,
R.G., Harris, Buffalo Police Officers John Doe 1 and 2, Drs.
Romero, Park, and Tan falsely arrested and imprisoned Jones;
(5) CSEC, Sherry W., Mandy M., R.G., Harris, Buffalo Police
Officers John Doe 1 and 2, and Drs. Romero, Park, and Tan
violated the MHL; (6) Drs. Romero, Park, and Tan (the
Physicians) and ECMC committed medical malpractice while
treating Jones; (7) the Physicians and ECMC failed to receive
informed consent from Jones for treatments they administered
to her; (8) Harris and Mylinda McCrady defamed Jones; (9)
Harris intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Jones;
(10) Harris defamed Thomas; and (11) a derivative spousal
claim on Thomas's behalf against all Defendants. See ECF
Harris, McCrady, ECMC and the Physicians moved to dismiss the
Amended Complaint. ECF Nos. 5, 8, 26, 41, 74. These motions
are currently before the Court.
in December of 2017, Plaintiffs moved to proceed in forma
pauperis, for appointment of counsel, and for other
miscellaneous relief. See ECF Nos. 60-61. Because the Court
has since appointed an attorney to represent Plaintiffs, see
ECF No. 62, these motions are DENIED.
March 21, 2015, Harris contacted CSEC, told representatives
that he was Jones's son and was concerned for her safety,
and requested that CSEC send an outreach team to conduct a
mental health evaluation of Jones. ECF No. 3 ¶¶
38-41. He specifically noted that he was “not
sure” if Jones was suicidal or a danger to herself, and
that he believed Jones was not sleeping because she was
posting on Facebook throughout the night. ECF No. 3 ¶
42. In some of the posts, Jones said she thought she was
Harriet Tubman and Moses. Id. ¶ 46. He also
noted that Jones and Thomas were living separately “due
to drug abuse issues, ” a statement that Harris
allegedly knew was false. Id. ¶ 43.
time, Harris was living in Washington, D.C., and was studying
to receive a masters' degree in social work. Id.
¶ 39. Consequently, he was familiar with the standards
governing emergency mental health admissions, including those
under the MHL. Id.
approximately 3:45 p.m. the same day, Sherry W. and Mandy M.,
CSEC employees, traveled to Jones's home. Id.
¶ 45. They explained what Harris told them and why they
were there. Id. ¶ 46. Jones allowed Sherry and
Mandy to view her Facebook page, which did not contain the
post Harris described. Id. ¶ 47. Later in their
conversation, Jones began to discuss historical
African-American figures with Sherry and Mandy. Id.
¶ 53. Sherry was visibly angered by the conversation,
which Jones attributed to prejudice and lack of cultural
sensitivity and awareness. Id. ¶ 56-57. After
approximately twenty minutes, Sherry and Mandy left
Jones's home. Id. ¶¶ 48-49.
Sherry left Jones's home, she called Harris and discussed
the encounter with him. Id. ¶ 59. Harris and
Sherry agreed that he would monitor Jones's behaviors and
would contact CSEC if a second evaluation was needed.
Id. ¶ 60.
evening of March 21, Jones's dog was euthanized because
of ongoing health problems. Id. ¶ 64. Jones
asked Thomas to stay with her for support. Id.
that evening, Harris again contacted CSEC. Id.
¶ 71. During his call, he claimed that Jones euthanized
her dog, said she was Harriet Tubman, and was spending time
with Thomas, who is “evil.” Id.
next day, March 22, 2015, McCrady contacted Jones. ECF No. 3
¶ 73. During the call, Jones told McCrady that Harris
called CSEC on her. Id. ¶ 78. Jones asked
McCrady to call Harris and ask him why he contacted CSEC.
Id. When McCrady contacted Harris, they
“apparently” agreed to have Jones removed from
her home and hospitalized under the MHL. Id. ¶
that day, Harris contacted CSEC again. Id. During
his call, he told the CSEC representative that he sent a
friend to check on Jones, the friend described her as
“paranoid, ” and the friend heard her say that
her daughter was coming to her house to kill her, so she
would have to kill her daughter first. Id. ¶
83. Additionally, Harris said that Thomas was a drug user and
was staying with Jones, and that Jones was a lawyer who had
not worked for some time. Id. Jones alleges that
these statements were false and Harris knew they were false.
Id. ¶ 84.
approximately 2:00 p.m. on March 22, 2015, Sherry and R.G.
from CSEC arrived at Jones's home with five police
officers. Id. ¶¶ 87-88. Jones was then
involuntarily transported by ambulance to ECMC under the MHL.
Id. ¶¶ 122-24.
arrived at ECMC at approximately 5:00 p.m. See Id.
¶ 131. Jones informed ECMC staff that she was a
diabetic; despite this, she was not given water, food, or
medication for nearly twenty-four hours. Id.
¶¶ 138, 147, 155.
that evening, ECMC employees contacted Harris. Id.
¶ 156. Harris explained that Jones was not sleeping
properly, was fearful and paranoid, believed that her
daughter was going to kill her, had been “drinking a
lot lately, ” and was taking medication prescribed for
her late dog. Id. Jones alleged that these
statements were false, Harris knew they were false, and
Harris made them to cause ECMC to admit her for psychiatric
treatment. Id. ¶¶ 157-58.
Romero examined Jones at approximately midnight on March 22.
ECF No. 3 ¶ 163. At that time, Jones was fearful and had
not received appropriate food, water, or medication for over
eight hours. Id. ¶¶ 164-65. Despite these
conditions, Dr. Romero concluded that Jones needed inpatient
psychiatric stabilization. Id. ¶ 166.
Park examined Jones on March 23. Id. ¶ 167. He
reviewed Harris's statements and found them to be
credible without basis. Id. ¶ 168. Dr. Park
also did not believe that Jones was a lawyer and considered
the assertion that she was a lawyer evidence that her sense
of reality was markedly impaired. Id. ¶¶
169-70. Based on this information, he diagnosed Jones with
“psychotic disorder not otherwise specified” and
prescribed antipsychotic medications. Id. ¶
March 24, ECMC employees began administering the medications
Dr. Park prescribed to Jones. Id. ¶ 174. Jones
did not give informed consent to the administration of the
medications and one medication, Haldol, was given to Jones
against her will without a court order. Id.
a week later, on March 31, Jones began the process of
challenging her commitment at ECMC. Id. ¶ 191.
Dr. Tan told Jones that if she challenged her commitment, he
would “go after” Jones's law license.
Id. ¶ 192. Dr. Tan also said that Jones had
“Sundowner's disease” and certified that
Jones required seven additional days of hospitalization.
Id. ¶¶ 194-95.
Dr. Tan prescribed medication to Jones that caused her to
“emit a noise similar to someone with Tourette's
Syndrome” and her face to twitch. Id. ¶
203. Dr. Tan also diagnosed Jones with bi-polar disease and
prescribed her Depakote and Risperidol. Id.
¶¶ 205, 211. The Depakote and Haldol-the latter
prescribed by Dr. Park-caused Jones's legs to swell,
resulting in permanent damage to her knees and lower back.
Id. ¶ 214. Jones's complaints regarding
pain were ignored. Id. ¶ 215.
Physicians and ECMC did not explain the risks, hazards, and
effects of the medications that were administered to her and
did not allow her to refuse the medications. ECF No. 3
April 6, 2015, Jones was released from ECMC. Id.
complaint will survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) when it states a plausible claim
for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007)). A claim for relief is plausible when the
plaintiff pleads sufficient facts that allow the Court to
draw reasonable inferences that the defendant is liable for
the alleged conduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
considering the plausibility of a claim, the Court must
accept factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Faber v. Metro.
Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011). At the
same time, the Court is not required to accord “[l]egal
conclusions, deductions, or opinions couched as factual
allegations . . . a presumption of truthfulness.”
In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig., 503 F.3d 89, 95
(2d Cir. 2007) (quotation marks omitted); see also Barr
v. Abrams, 810 F.2d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 1987) (“As
we have repeatedly held, complaints relying on the civil
rights statutes are insufficient unless they contain some
specific allegations of fact indicating a deprivation of
rights, instead of a litany of general conclusions that shock
but have no meaning.”).
well established that the Court must construe pro se
submissions liberally and read them “to raise the
strongest arguments that they suggest.” Nicholas v.
City of New York, No. 15-CV-9592 (JPO), 2017 WL 2537293,
at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 12, 2017) (quoting Ortiz v.
McBride, 323 F.3d 191, 194 (2d Cir. 2003)). Those
principles apply, without question, to McCrady's Motion,
since she has proceeded pro se for the entirety of the case.
They do not apply, however, to Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint, even though it was filed pro se. Courts within the
Second Circuit have declined to liberally construe pleadings
of seasoned, licensed attorneys proceeding pro se. Chira
v. Columbia Univ., 289 F.Supp.2d 477, 482 (S.D.N.Y.
2003). Jones is both licensed to practice law in New York and
a seasoned attorney before this Court. Consequently, the
Court will not construe the Amended Complaint liberally.
these principles in mind, the Court now turns to a threshold
issue it must consider before evaluating the Motions to
Dismiss: whether Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint is a