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Patient A v. State, Agency of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Vermont

February 11, 2015

PATIENT A, Plaintiff,



Plaintiff Patient A alleges various causes of action against defendants State of Vennont, Agency of Human Services ("AHS"); Department of Mental Health ("DMH"); Paul Dupre, Commissioner of DMH; Correct Care Solutions ("CCS"); Department of Corrections ("DOC"); and Andrew Pallito, Commissioner of DOC, relating to Patient A's incarceration from August 13, 2013 through on or about April 3, 2014. Patient A alleges that he suffers from various cognitive impairments, that he spent over seven months of his incarceration in segregation, and that this extended segregation worsened his psychological conditions and caused him harm. (Doc. 1 at 1-3.) Defendants moved to dismiss Patient A's claims in part. (Doc. 17.) For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. Background

The following facts are drawn from Patient A's complaint. (Doc. 1 at 1-3.) Patient A[1] suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger's Type; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; Antisocial Personality Disorder; and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He was incarcerated at the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility in Vermont on August 13, 2013 for an alleged parole violation. Patient A was designated by DOC as "seriously functionally impaired" soon thereafter. On or about August 30, 2013, he was transferred to Southern State Correctional Facility ("SSCF") in Springfield. On or about April 3, 2014, Patient A was transferred to Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital ("VPCH") in Morrisville.

Patient A claims that he was held in segregation for over seven months-"nearly all of his incarceration since August 13, 2013"-even though he required inpatient hospitalization for his mental health conditions. (Doc. 1 at 4.) In segregation, Patient A was confined in isolation to a small cell for approximately twenty-two hours each day. (Id. at 13.) He alleges that his segregated confinement caused him to "engage[] in self-harming behaviors, suicidal ideations, poor eating habits, and extended bouts of crying and/or screaming." (Id. at 6.) He also claims that he suffered uses of force, including segregation, because of his mental disabilities and that these uses of force would not have been permitted in the hospital setting that he required. (Id. at 11.) He claims that "the harassment and discriminatory treatment [he] suffered at the hands of other prisoners and staff while incarcerated but after he was identified as needing hospital level psychiatric treatment traumatized him and triggered... paranoia and psychotic symptoms...." (Id.) Upon his arrival at VPCH, Patient A "was noted to have experienced substantial weight loss, and had bruises, abrasions and scratches on his wrists, forearms, and ankles attributed to his time in corrections." (Id. at 14.)

Patient A alleges that defendants knew of his need for inpatient psychiatric treatment but did not fulfill their duties to secure him proper placement in a psychiatric care facility until April 2014. Specifically, he alleges that defendant Pallito knew in 2013 and 2014 "about specific individuals in his correctional facilities who had been held in segregated circumstances for more than a week due in part to the prisoners' mental health condition, " (id. at 5) and in any case that Pallito "learned about [Patient A's] placement in segregated circumstances due in part to [his] mental health condition, some time prior to March 28, 2014." (Id.) Patient A claims that employees of defendants CCS[2] and DOC identified him as requiring inpatient hospital care due to decompensation of his mental health by February 8, 2014. (Id. at 6, 13.) Patient A alleges that once DOC and CCS "notified Defendant DMH of [Patient A's] need for hospitalization, [he] was... eligible for involuntary treatment, and Defendants AHS, [3] DMH[4] and Dupre became responsible for [his] appropriate treatment and hospitalization." (Id. at 6-7.) He also alleges that at all times relevant to the complaint, defendant Dupre "was aware that... individuals in need of treatment were not being placed in appropriate treatment settings in a timely manner but instead at times were being held in segregated correctional cells for long periods of time, " in violation of Vermont law. (Id. at 7-8.)

Patient A also alleges that defendants continued to hold him in segregated confinement despite their awareness that such confinement was causing his mental health to deteriorate. (Id. at 6.) Defendant Pallito "did not personally intervene or document any effort to contact other state officials to notify them of this emergency need for a hospital bed" for Patient A. (Id.) Likewise, he claims that defendants DOC and CCS "were aware of [his]... disabilities and failed to identify and implement necessary accommodations to prevent those disabilities from resulting in punitive actions or other harms to [Patient A] while in DOC custody." (Id. at 10.) Patient A alleges that defendant Dupre "had actual knowledge as early as February 28, 2014 that [Patient A] was being held in segregation in a correctional facility, suffering harm, and in need of and eligible for hospital level of care." (Id. at 8.) However, Patient A claims, "Dupre failed to adequately respond to the known harm and risk of harm such placement was inflicting on [Patient A.]" (Id. at 9.)

Patient A also claims that defendant CCS discontinued his Focalin medication and "ordered him" to take Ritalin, even after his mother "informed Defendant DOC that Ritalin had made [him] psychotic in the past." (Id. at 13-40.)

Patient A alleges in his complaint six causes of action: (1) cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against defendant Pallito; (2) violation of his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment caused by his segregated confinement in a correctional facility, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against defendant Dupre; (3) violation of his rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") caused by his segregated confinement in a correctional facility due to his disability related behavior, against defendants AHS, DOC, and DMH; (4) violation of the Rehabilitation Act caused by his segregated confinement in a correctional facility, against defendants AHS, DOC, and DMH; (5) violation of the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act caused by segregated confinement in a correctional facility, against defendants AHS, DOC, and DMH; and (6) medical malpractice against defendant CCS for failure to provide Patient A with appropriate mental health treatment.

Defendants move to dismiss the first cause of action against defendant Pallito to the extent Pallito is sued in his official capacity; the second cause of action against defendant Dupre to the extent Dupre is sued in his official capacity and for failure to state a claim; and the fifth cause of action against defendants AHS, DOC, and DMH on the ground that it is barred by sovereign immunity. (Doc. 17.)

II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations, " Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), but to survive a motion to dismiss it must contain "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) (internal quotation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. If a plaintiff has failed to "nudge[ ] [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, they must be dismissed.

III. Analysis

A. Patient A Has Failed to State a Claim Against State Officials in ...

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