Disability Advocates, Inc. filed a Class Action lawsuit in Federal District Court attacking alleged widespread abuses in the commitment process at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston. Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants deprive persons labeled mentally ill of their liberty by emergency certifying persons without evidence that they are dangerous to themselves or others. The complaint alleged violations of U.S. and N.Y.S. Constitutions, federal civil rights statutes and N.Y.S. statutory and common laws.
The court held that private physicians are state actors/ acting under color of state law for purposes of 42 USC §1983. PAIMI standing was also upheld.
DAI and Touro College challenged the practice of prescribing psychotropic medication "PRN (as needed) for agitation" and forcibly administering such medication to agitated non-dangerous patients. This practice violates the right to refuse medication, Rivers v. Katz.
The parties settled this class action in 1995. The settlement provided that:
[For more information contact New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc. at: telephone - 212-244-4664; fax - 212-244-4570]
Michelle B. challenged a court order for medication over her objection. She had been hospitalized at Rockland Psychiatric Center for eight years at the time of the petition and was on a court-ordered retained status. For the first seven of her eight years at Rockland Psychiatric Center she took medications. She took Haldol which had a significant effect, but then she began refusing Haldol. However, for almost a month prior to the October 3, 1994 hearing she began again taking the medication and her mental status improved. The court order allowed Ms. B to be medicated with a series of drugs over a period of time. Michelle B. appealed the order. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest represented amicus curiae American Orthopsychiatric Association in support of her appeal. Amicus argued, inter alia, that medication can not be forcibly administered by nasogastric tubes. The Appellate Division vacated the order and dismissed the petition for lack of a sufficient record.
NY Civil Liberties Union Foundation and Touro College co-counsel this class action, with the assistance of the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, which looks at the authority of a family court judge to order confinement of an individual. The plaintiff also seeks monetary damages to compensate him for the involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations he suffered in violation of his substantive and procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In the midst of a hearing on a petition for an order of protection, defendant ordered the plaintiff remanded to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric hospitalization although the plaintiff did not show signs of dangerousness, and did not require resort to alternatives less restrictive of personal liberty than involuntary hospitalization.
The parties settled the injunctive aspect of this lawsuit when the State amended § 251 to eliminate the defects in the statute. After the District Court denied a motion to dismiss the damages claims by the City of New York, Caminero v. Rand, 882 F. Supp. 1319 (S.D.N.Y. 1995), the parties engaged in settlement discussions on these claims.
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New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc. at: telephone - 212-244-4664; fax - 212-244-4570]
This lawsuit raised the issues of (1) whether or not involuntarily hospitalized patients have the right to psychiatric assistance at civil commitment proceedings and (2) whether or not the fee limitations imposed by Judiciary Law § 35 on fees for independent psychiatric experts, i.e., experts who can testify for either side, results in a denial of due process because there is an inability to attract doctors who are willing to serve on the court-appointed panel of expert witnesses.
In 1992, the Second Circuit held that here is no right to expert assistance, i.e., someone who would serve as a witness and consultant, in every commitment proceeding but the court recognized that there will be a number of fact-specific cases in which the United States Constitution requires the appointment of an expert not only to testify but also assist in the preparation and presentation of the patient's case. The court further held that the Constitution requires the appointment of an independent expert who is available to testify (but not necessarily assist in the preparation of the patient's case) when such testimony is necessary for a reliable determination of the hearing. The Second Circuit remanded the matter for a determination as to whether or not application of Judiciary Law § 35 in Dutchess County results in violations of patients' right to independent psychiatric testimony. After remand, the Second Circuit concluded that the present scheme in Dutchess County did not violate due process because the plaintiffs failed to come forth with a credible remedy that established it was feasible to hold hearings in a more expeditious fashion when a court appointed an independent psychiatric expert. The Court of Appeals held that there is no absolute constitutional right to a psychiatrist to assist the individual in the hearing or to an independent psychiatric evaluation, but either of these may be constitutionally required in special circumstances.
Touro filed a federal civil rights action which challenges the erroneous confinement of an individual by employees of the Nassau County Medical Center and the NYS Office of Mental Health. The individual's confinement was based primarily upon unsubstantiated rumors, vehemently denied by the plaintiff, that he threatened someone with a gun. The client's court hearing to challenge his confinement was repeatedly adjourned until he was released the day before his scheduled hearing.
The District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the ground that because of the plaintiffs' psychiatric history, it was reasonable for the defendants to believe that the plaintiff was dangerous. The Second Circuit affirmed. However, it is noteworthy that the Court of Appeals recognized that the Fourth Amendment's probable cause requirement applies to the civil commitment context. In this case, the Court held that it was reasonable for the defendants to believe that probable cause existed to hospitalize.
The plaintiff in this action for monetary relief asserts that the forcible administration of antipsychotic medication, by injection, in the absence of informed consent and an explanation of any foreseeable risks or side effects associated with his medication regime, violated his rights to make an informed treatment decision, and constituted assault and battery. The plaintiff asserts further that the administration of additional medication, when it was unnecessary and unwanted, violated the plaintiff's right to bodily integrity and personal security protected by the NYS and US Constitutions, and also violated various state statutes and regulations. The plaintiff also asserts that he was restrained when he did not pose a risk of injuring himself or others, and was deprived of his right to liberty as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. This case was filed by Touro College. Preliminary settlement discussions were unavailing. Discovery ended previously and the plaintiff has filed a note of issue, which means the case is ready for trial.
The petitioner requests an order directing the respondent to seal the hospital records arising out of her involuntary commitment at North Shore University Hospital. The sealing of the records pursuant to Section 33.14 of Mental Hygiene Law is warranted because North Shore based the confinement of the petitioner upon erroneous statements of the petitioner's husband and daughter. Mental Hygiene Law Section 33.14(c) authorizes the sealing of records upon a finding that "the petitioner was illegally detained by a facility by reason of fraud, error, or falsified documents and the records pertain to such illegal detention."
In response to some improper requests for access to her clinical records which the client has received from several entities, Touro College, on behalf of the petitioner, initiated a special proceeding to seal her psychiatric records pursuant to the New York State Mental Hygiene Law. The petition was not opposed by any of the respondent hospitals, and the court ordered the sealing of the records.
Touro filed an action on behalf of plaintiffs seeking to enjoin to civil commitment proceedings the application of Section 5519(a) of the New York City Civil Practice Law and Rules. The challenged provision grants to the State and its municipalities an automatic stay from any judgment or order upon the filing of a notice of appeal. This results in patients remaining confined for an indeterminate amount of time without a determination by clear and convincing evidence that the patient satisfies the criteria for commitment.
This action was settled. Pursuant to the agreement, when the State or municipality files a notice of appeal, such appeal will automatically stay the proceeding for five days but no more.
Charles W., et al. v. Stone et al. [filed August 1995]
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This class action, filed in US District Court by Touro College, challenges the discriminatory manner in which the State of New York treats institutionalized mentally disabled individuals who have been charged with, but not convicted of, criminal activity. The suit challenges the application of the Criminal Procedure Law, Mental Hygiene Law and 14 NYCRR Part 540, the regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), to individuals found incompetent to stand trial for misdemeanors and minor felonies and confined pursuant to the Criminal Procedures Law (CPL) article 730.
When a local criminal court determines that a defendant in a misdemeanor or minor felony case lacks the capacity to stand trial, the court will commit the defendant, pursuant to CPL Section 730.40, to a facility operated by the OMH or the OMRDD. Once committed, the State subjects the incapacitated defendant to the provisions of CPL Section 730. 60, Mental Hygiene Law § 29.11 (h) and 14 NYCRR Part 540. These provisions authorize procedures for the care, treatment and discharge of patients that are more stringent than those applicable to civilly committed patients. The plaintiffs also challenge the practice of committing individuals pursuant to CPL Section 730.40. Because the statute authorizes involuntary commitment of mentally disabled individuals for the ostensible purpose of attaining capacity to stand trial, while at the same time dismissing the charges, the nature and duration of commitment does not bear a reasonable relation to its purpose and therefore, violates due process of law.
The parties were involved in serious settlement discussion and it appeared that a final settlement agreement was in place until OMH substantially altered its position. The parties are continuing to negotiate.
This class action challenges Criminal Procedure Law § 730.40, the statute that authorizes the commitment of defendants found incompetent to stand trial for misdemeanors and minor felonies. The litigation also challenges Criminal Procedure Law § 730.60 (6) and 14 NYCRR § 540, which subjects individuals confined pursuant to CPL article 730 to more rigorous procedures for discharge or placement on less restrictive status.
However, the plaintiff in this lawsuit has raised claims that were not raised in Charles W. v. Stone. He asserts that it takes the local criminal courts an impermissibly long amount of time to conduct evaluations while the defendant sits in jail and it takes local sheriffs an impermissibly long amount of time to transport defendants from jail to Office of Mental Health facilities when a defendant has been found incompetent. Last year the court certified a plaintiff class and defendant class of criminal court judges. This year, the plaintiff has conducted discovery.
Touro College argued that their client had been improperly confined under the State's Criminal Procedure Law. Despite the Ritter decision, the OMH neither appealed nor implemented the court's decision. As a result, the plaintiff was erroneously hospitalized. The court denied a motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds filed by the defendants, and also ruled that because state law requires the OMH to treat all individuals similarly situated to the plaintiffs in Ritter in the same manner as those plaintiffs, the decision in Ritter constituted clearly established law.
The parties settled this lawsuit for $35,000 in damages.
Touro College represented an individual who was involuntary hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital Center and is now facing a bill for the hospitalization. The plaintiff also seeks to expunge her hospital record and asks for damages for both her wrongful confinement and the administration of medication without first providing information regarding possible side effects of such medication.
The District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiff's confinement claims. The Court held, inter alia, that because the committing physicians concluded that the plaintiff posed a danger to herself or others, there was not due process violation. The Court held further that the doctors correctly applied New York's emergency commitment provisions in that the doctors correctly determined that the plaintiff engaged in "conduct" that demonstrated that she posed a danger to herself or others in that the plaintiff came to the hospital to obtain sleeping pills, which could be used to commit suicide, had trouble eating and sleeping, her performance at work had declined and cried during the psychiatric interview. The District Court further interpreted state law to require the patient to pay for hospitalization.
The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court. The Court held that it was error to hold that simply because the doctors made a finding a dangerousness, due process was satisfied. The court further held that what constitutes conduct demonstrating a danger to oneself is a question that must be determined at trial since it requires a resolution of expert testimony on the issue of the meaning of conduct demonstrating a danger to oneself within the psychiatric profession. The Court also held that since the District Court concluded that, notwithstanding the plaintiff's obligation to pay hospitalization under State law, the plaintiff would not be liable for charges if she was wrongfully confined, and the District Court erred when it concluded that the plaintiff was not illegally confined, the granting of summary judgment on the liability claim was error.
This civil rights action arose from the emergency psychiatric hospitalization of the plaintiff at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center in 1991. In a related action pending in the New York City Civil Court, County of Bronx, NYCHHC is seeking to collect the costs of care and treatment charges from the plaintiff for his involuntary hospitalization. The hospital has been unwilling to formally release the plaintiff from liability for the bill, and the plaintiff has filed this action asserting civil rights violations against the hospital and the physician who confined him. The defendants moved to dismiss the action on the grounds that the plaintiff had not filed a notice of claim against the NYHHC, a public corporation, within the one-year and ninety day period provided for by the relevant statute of limitations. The plaintiff requested that the court assess sanctions against defendants and their attorneys.
The court ruled that the plaintiff can continue to pursue his civil rights claims, notwithstanding the fact that he did not file a notice of claim, because actions under §1983 do not require notices of claim. The court denied plaintiff's request for sanctions. The plaintiff is working on a summary judgment motion on the ability to assess charges.
This is §1983 lawsuit for damages and expungement of the patient's hospital record. The District Court granted summary judgment to some of the defendants on qualified immunity grounds but kept the action alive against the defendant-physician that initially authorized the plaintiff's confinement.
The court first concluded that the allegation that the plaintiff was confined when he did not pose a danger to himself or others stated a substantive due process claim because the Constitution prohibits the confinement of a nondangerous mentally ill person. The court refused to dismiss the action on qualified immunity grounds against this physician because the plaintiff alleged that the doctor authorized his commitment without conducting a psychiatric evaluation and if the doctor engaged in such conduct any assessment of dangerousness would not have been objectively reasonable.
After limited discovery, the remaining defendant physician again moved for summary judgment and the plaintiff cross-moved for partial summary judgment. Subsequently, the plaintiff further moved to reargue a claim for expungement of his hospital record that the court initially dismissed on the grounds that it had no authority to order the expungment of a patient’s hospital record. The court denied both the defendant’s and plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment but reinstated the expungement claim, finding that it erred when it initially dismissed the claim.
Within the last year, the clinic settled the case against one of the defendants after the Second Circuit reversed a decision that granted summary judgment against the defendant and reinstated the lawsuit against the defendant.
Touro College filed this lawsuit which sought damages resulting from the false imprisonment by the Riverhead Police which was instigated by the client's Family Care Provider who fabricated false assertions about our client. The Court denied a motion for summary judgment made by the Family Care Provider, and found that the provider may be found individually liable for constitutional and civil rights violations. As a result, the parties settled the lawsuit. As part of the settlement, the Clinic agreed to waive attorneys' fees.
This was a civil rights action filed on behalf of a law school graduate who was involuntarily hospitalized at Kings County Hospital Center and Kingsboro Psychiatric Center. While hospitalized, physicians subjected him to treatment decisions that resulted in the plaintiff suffering an allergic reaction. The plaintiff alleged that such decisions constituted a substantial departure from accepted judgment, practice and standards in violation of the fourteenth amendment. The plaintiff alleged further that the City defendants illegally medicated him over objection. The plaintiff alleged further that he was confined unlawfully because he was not dangerous. The Second Circuit upheld that granting of summary judgment to the defendants. The Court First held that the plaintiff was collaterally estopped from challenging his confinement because he had challenged his release in a state habeas corpus proceeding and state court had denied his writ of habeas corpus. The Court of Appeals further held that most of the treatment provided to him did not constitute a substantial departure from accepted judgment, practice or standards. The Court further held that while the failure to enable the plaintiff to make an informed treatment decision may have constituted a departure from the professional judgment standard, the law governing this aspect of treatment was not clearly established and the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.
This class action challenges the Office of Mental Health ("OMH") policy of utilizing patients Social Security benefits to satisfy care and treatment charges. Previously, the District Court certified this lawsuit as a class action and consolidated the action with a similar case entitled Brogan v, Sullivan. There are two subclasses. The first consists of individuals who endorse their Social Security benefits and who are asked to endorse their checks for deposit in their patient account. Once the money is in their patient account, the OMH will transfer funds to satisfy care and treatment charges. The second class consists of patients for whom an Office of Mental Health facility has been named representative payee. Presently, the parties are engaged in settlement negotiations that began two years ago and the case is almost settled.
Touro College filed suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York on behalf of the plaintiff, in this action for monetary relief, asserting that the forcible administration of anti-psychotic medication on a "PRN" basis in response to plaintiff's agitated but non-dangerous behavior violated his rights of bodily integrity and personal security protected by the NYS and US Constitutions. Plaintiff asserts further that such action violated his right to make an informed treatment decision and constituted assault and battery. The matter is presently on the trial-ready calendar but the parties are engaged in serious settlement talks.
Legal Services of Central New York was successful in assisting an individual who had been ordered retained for an additional two years under New York's Criminal Procedure Law, despite the opinions of his treatment team that he could safely leave the psychiatric center. LSCNY represented H.H. at trial and then filed a Petition for Review and Rehearing. The State offered to settle the case by granting H.H. a thirty day "trial period" to determine whether he could successfully meet the Order of Conditions. After the trial period, LSCNY's motion for a directed verdict was granted and the client was released pursuant to an order of conditions.
[For more information contact New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Inc. at: telephone - 212-244-4664; fax - 212-244-4570]
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Project Release and the Alliance of Psychiatrically Labelled Persons in the Appellate Division. The case focused on the procedure for transfer of mentally ill patients from short term acute care and diagnostic hospitals to state-run chronic care institutions, over the patients' objections and without a prior hearing as to the need for such a transfer. The Court of Appeals held that the regulations governing the transfers sufficiently safeguarded the rights of the patients.
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, in conjunction with several other
advocacy organizations, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the
defendant in this case who was detained against her will in a City hospital
because she had tuberculosis. Although she was not yet contagious, the City
sought an order of retention because hospital officials feared that she would
not take her medicine if allowed to leave. Although the Appellate Division
affirmed the order of retention, it adopted the standard urged in the amicus
curiae brief that the persons with tuberculosis be detained only if the
Health Commissioner demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that equally
effective, less restrictive alternatives to detention are unavailable or
[For more information call Touro College at:
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The client was involuntarily hospitalized at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center (CPMC) after she saw an internist on an unrelated matter who authorized hospital security to involuntarily transport her, in restraint if necessary, to the CPMC psychiatric emergency room. The most dangerous act the plaintiff had engaged in was throwing a piece of cake at her mother during a yelling match approximately two weeks earlier. The plaintiff remained in the emergency room for two days and then hospitalized for approximately two weeks until a court determined that she was not dangerous. The District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on state action grounds and the Second Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari.
This action involves the psychiatric hospitalization of an individual who had never been hospitalized before when she may well have been mistakenly diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder. In fact, the plaintiff was suffering a “Lyme flare”, an acute period of Lyme Disease. Within the past year, the plaintiff amended her complaint and the parties completed discovery. The defendant will shortly file motions for summary judgment.
Mr. Mercurio lives in Alaska. He is the only family member who keeps in contact with his son who resides at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. Mr. Mercurio wants the Office of Mental Health to transfer his son to a psychiatric center in Alaska. However, the Interstate Compact does not authorize the transfer of insanity acquittees and his son is an insanity acquittee. Hence, it is very difficult to maintain contact with his son. This year, a lawsuit was filed which alleges that the Interstate Compact denies Mr. Mercurio’s son equal protection of the laws and further violates the right of family autonomy. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss that is pending.
This lawsuit challenges the confinement and restraint of Victor Coffee at the Veterans Administration Hospital at Northport. The client voluntarily entered the hospital to treat alcohol abuse and the facility transferred the client without consent to the psychiatric unit. The Clinic filed an amended complaint and the defendants, who are federal officials, moved to dismiss the complaint. A decision is pending.
The Touro College Law Clinic represented an individual who was wrongfully hospitalized and restrained at Harlem Hospital. The Clinic served a motion for partial summary judgment and the defendants cross-moved on the grounds that the plaintiff did not serve a notice of claim. Previously, the court granted the defendant’s motion and denied the plaintiff’s motion. The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court decision and the Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal.
This lawsuit challenges the delays that result in Kings County when a court appoints an independent psychiatrist. The appointment of an expert delays proceedings from four to six weeks. This discourages patients from seeking appointment of experts. The parties are presently involved in settlement discussions.
This §1983 lawsuit arises out of the involuntary hospitalization of the plaintiff at Bellevue Hospital Center when he went in for an unrelated medical procedure. Discovery will commence soon.