840 F.2d 797 (11th Cir. 1988), 85-3843, Burch v. Apalachee Community Mental Health Services, Inc.

Docket Nº:85-3843.
Citation:840 F.2d 797
Party Name:Darrell BURCH, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. APALACHEE COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:March 18, 1988
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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840 F.2d 797 (11th Cir. 1988)

Darrell BURCH, Plaintiff-Appellant,




No. 85-3843.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

March 18, 1988

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Richard M. Powers, Tallahassee, Fla., for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert C. Crabtree, Lloyd Monroe, Tallahassee, Fla., for Apalachee Community Mental Health.

Walter M. Meginniss, Eric J. Taylor, Asst. Attys. Gen., Tallahassee, Fla., for Williams, Potter, Parker, Sweet, McCormich, Pandya, Chou, Harrison, Daniel and Stephens.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Before RONEY, Chief Judge, TJOFLAT, HILL, FAY, VANCE, KRAVITCH, JOHNSON, HATCHETT, ANDERSON, CLARK, and EDMONDSON, Circuit Judges, and TUTTLE and GODBOLD, Senior Circuit Judges. [*]

JOHNSON, Circuit Judge:

In this action brought under 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1983, Darrell Burch alleges that the appellees "willful[ly], wanton[ly] and [with] reckless disregard" deprived him of his liberty without due process of law. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted the appellees' motion to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). We reverse the district court, holding that Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981), and its progeny do not apply to Burch's allegations. Although we hold that Burch has stated a claim upon which relief could be granted and that he has a right to attempt to prove he is entitled to relief, we express no view on the merits of Burch's claim, i.e., whether he is entitled to compensatory damages.


When reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we take the material allegations of the complaint and its incorporated exhibits as true, Walker Process Equip. v. Food Machinery & Chemical Corp., 382 U.S. 172, 174-75, 86 S.Ct. 347, 348-49, 15 L.Ed.2d 247 (1965), and liberally construe the complaint in favor of the plaintiff. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(f); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). This standard of review mandates that we reverse the dismissal "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46, 78 S.Ct. at 102.

When the complaint is liberally construed and the material allegations are taken as true, Burch's complaint and incorporated exhibits reveal the following facts:

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On December 7, 1981, a concerned citizen found Darrell Burch wandering on the side of a highway and took him to the Apalachee Community Mental Health Services, Inc. (ACMHS), a facility designated by the state as capable of receiving patients suffering from mental illnesses. Upon his arrival, Burch was hallucinating, confused, disoriented, and clearly psychotic, was wearing no shoes, and believed that he was in heaven. At the request of ACMHS, Burch signed a form for voluntary admission and a form for authorization for treatment. 1

Burch continued to appear psychotic during his three-day stay in ACMHS's PATH Program. ACMHS diagnosed Burch as having paranoid schizophrenia and began to give him psychotropic drugs. ACMHS could not provide Burch with the treatment he needed, and therefore transferred him to Florida State Hospital (FSH) in Chattahoochee, Florida, on December 10, 1981. Before transferring Burch, ACMHS had Burch sign forms requesting voluntary admission to FSH, along with a form authorizing treatment at FSH. 2 ACMHS records indicate Burch was still psychotic on December 10.

Although Burch remained in a psychotic state, FSH had him sign a form for voluntary admission upon his arrival at the facility. Burch continued to believe he was in heaven. On December 23, 1981, FSH had Burch sign another authorization for treatment form. FSH kept Burch as a patient until May 7, 1982, allegedly against his will. Throughout his 152 days in ACMHS and FSH, Burch never was accorded a hearing at which to challenge his commitment and treatment.

Based upon the above facts and after his release from FSH, Burch brought the circumstances of his confinement to the attention of the Florida Human Rights Advocacy Committee. Burch's complaint to the Committee alleged that he had been inappropriately admitted to FSH and did not remember signing a voluntary admission form. Linda Weeks, apparently an Advocacy Committee member, researched hospital records and found Burch's signature on the voluntary admission form signed upon his arrival at FSH. Weeks, however, also found documentation that Burch was heavily medicated and disoriented on admission and concluded that Burch was "probably not competent to be signing legal documents." 3

On August 4, 1983, the Advocacy Committee discussed the matter at its Florida State Hospital meeting. At that point, as set forth in a letter responding to Burch's complaint to the Advocacy Committee, the "hospital administration was made aware that they were very likely asking medicated clients to make decisions at a time when they were not mentally competent." 4

Burch subsequently sought relief under Section 1983, and sued ACMHS and the FSH employees who were connected with his admission or treatment. 5 Burch alleged that these defendants had confined and treated him against his will, without any judicial determination of his need for treatment as required by Florida law and the United States Constitution. He further alleged that the defendants "willful[ly], wanton[ly] and [with] reckless disregard" deprived him of his liberty without due process of law, and that he was substantially damaged when against his will he was committed and treated with mind-altering drugs.

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All of the appellees sought dismissal of Burch's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court granted their motions, holding that under Parratt 6 and its progeny, Florida's postdeprivation procedures satisfied the requirements of due process and precluded a Section 1983 action.


In a Section 1983 action, the plaintiff must show that the conduct complained of (1) was committed by a person acting under color of state law and (2) deprived him of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 7 In the present case, Burch seeks relief based upon the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides that "[n]o State ... shall ... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." The Due Process Clause is the source of three types of Section 1983 claims: (1) violations of incorporated provisions of the Bill of Rights; (2) violations of its substantive component; and (3) violations of its procedural component. We conclude that Burch states a claim upon which relief could be granted for a procedural due process violation.

Our analysis focuses on whether (1) Burch seeks recovery based upon a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest, (2) Burch received the process he was due, (3) Burch suffered a constitutionally cognizable deprivation of liberty, and (4) Burch suffered the injury as a result of state action. We begin by holding that Burch's claim implicates a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause. The concept of liberty certainly protects the right of an individual to avoid the physical confinement of long-term mental hospitalization against his will. See Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 425, 99 S.Ct. 1804, 1808-09, 60 L.Ed.2d 323 (1979).

A. Due Process

We next determine whether Burch received the process he was due. The Supreme Court has stressed that "civil commitment for any purpose constitutes a significant deprivation of liberty that requires due process protection." Id. In addition, the Court has recognized that "it is indisputable that involuntary commitment to a mental hospital after a finding of probable dangerousness to self or others can engender adverse social consequences to the individual." Id. at 425-26, 99 S.Ct. at 1809.

The Court has also recognized that the state has some countervailing interests: "The state has a legitimate interest under its parens patriae powers in providing care to its citizens who are unable because of emotional disorders to care for themselves; the state also has authority under its police power to protect the community from the dangerous tendencies of some who are mentally ill." Id. at 426, 99 S.Ct. at 1809.

Due process protection thus requires in most cases that a person be accorded some type of hearing before being committed to a mental institution. In limited cases where the countervailing state interests are met, due process permits a period of involuntary commitment prior to a hearing as long as a hearing is held shortly after the initial detention.

We adopt Florida's statutorily-prescribed procedures to gauge what type of procedural

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process Burch was due. 8 At the time that Burch was in the appellees' care, Florida law required a certain procedure for the emergency admission of mental health patients. See Fla.Stat. Sec. 394.463(1) (1981) (since amended). This procedure allowed a mental health facility to provide emergency, involuntary treatment to a patient if the patient met certain criteria. Within forty-eight hours of the patient's admission, however, the facility had to (1) release the patient, (2) get his voluntary "express and informed consent to evaluation or treatment," or (3) initiate "a proceeding for court-ordered evaluation or involuntary placement." Id. Sec. 394.463(1)(d).

Taking Burch's allegations as true, (1) he was not released until 152 days after...

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