Beaumont v. Morgan, 7516

Decision Date08 June 1970
Docket NumberNo. 7516,7517.,7516
Citation427 F.2d 667
PartiesSusan BEAUMONT, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. Alexander C. MORGAN, Defendant, Appellee. Susan BEAUMONT, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. Christian W. AUSSENHEIMER et al., Defendants, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Daniel Klubock, with whom Daniel F. Featherstone, Jr., Boston, Mass., was on brief, for appellant.

Lionel H. Perlo, and Donald J. Wood, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom Daniel A. Lynch, Robert H. Quinn, Atty. Gen., and Ficksman & Conley, Boston, Mass., were on briefs, for appellee.

Before ALDRICH, Chief Judge, COFFIN, Circuit Judge, and FORD, District Judge.

COFFIN, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Susan Beaumont brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking recovery for loss of liberty against six doctors, all of whom played a role in her two-week confinement in a Massachusetts mental hospital. The jury exonerated defendant Morgan, the doctor who had originally recommended hospitalization, but returned verdicts against the five doctors who had dealt with plaintiff while confined. The district court, however, set these five verdicts aside and entered judgments, notwithstanding the verdicts, for defendants. This appeal followed.

Testimony at trial indicated that plaintiff, a 46-year-old unmarried woman, entered a Cambridge tavern on July 3, 1967, drank three Manhattans, then fainted on the sidewalk outside. Plaintiff claimed to have no memory of the ensuing events until she woke up strapped to an examining table at Cambridge City Hospital. Policemen summoned to her aid, however, testified that she was abusive, struck them repeatedly with her purse and cane, and threatened suicide. The policemen reported this behavior to the interne on duty at City Hospital, defendant Morgan. On the basis of their reports, his own observations of plaintiff's violent behavior, and plaintiff's renewed threats of self-destruction, Morgan concluded that plaintiff suffered from "acute psychosis with alcoholism" and needed further observation. After confirming his diagnosis with a senior doctor, Morgan executed a request for plaintiff's temporary admission to Westborough State Hospital under Mass. Gen.Laws c. 123 § 79, a provision authorizing emergency hospitalization for ten days.

On her arrival at Westborough State, plaintiff was examined by defendant Grimberg, who observed that she was under the influence of alcohol and very belligerent, and tentatively concluded that "her psychosis is probably due to excess alcohol in a paranoid personality". No doctor examined plaintiff on the following day, July 4, but on July 5 plaintiff was examined by defendant Segal, a staff psychiatrist, and by a meeting of the staff chaired by the hospital's director of psychiatry, defendant Simon. The consensus was that plaintiff suffered from "pathological intoxication in a sociopathic personality", and that circumstances warranted a "significant period of observation" beyond the ten days confinement authorized by § 79.

Further confinement required a certificate of mental illness and a court order pursuant to Mass.Gen.Laws c. 123 § 77. Accordingly, on the following day, July 6, the hospital summoned defendants Paine and Aussenheimer who examined plaintiff and certified to the Westborough District Court that continued confinement was necessary for plaintiff's treatment. The local court, without holding a hearing, issued an order authorizing plaintiff's commitment for forty days' observation. On July 14, defendant Simon noted that plaintiff was ready for discharge. Plaintiff was discharged after staff review of her case on July 19.

The court below, viewing this evidence most favorably to the plaintiff, concluded that defendants had erred in their diagnosis of mental derangement, but had acted in good faith and in conformity with statutory procedures. Were § 1983 actions to succeed under such circumstances, the court reasoned, the federal courts would be inundated with challenges to state confinements, both psychiatric and penal. The court added that, even if a § 1983 claim existed, some of the defendants would escape liability because they did not cause plaintiff's confinement, while others would enjoy absolute immunity as witnesses in a judicial proceeding.

Attacking these rulings and the jury verdict for defendant Morgan, plaintiff raises no fewer than fifteen separate questions. We find it necessary to answer three: whether the court erred in ruling that defendant Morgan was qualified under Mass.Gen.Laws c. 123 § 79 to request temporary care in a state institution; whether defendants properly preserved their rights to request judgments notwithstanding the verdict under Rule 50, Fed.R.Civ.P.; and whether the evidence, viewed most favorably to plaintiff, was sufficient to support the jury verdicts.

We begin with plaintiff's attack on defendant Morgan's authority to request temporary care. Section 79 requires that the physician who makes the request be a graduate of a legally chartered medical school and be registered in accordance with Mass.Gen.Laws c. 112. Defendant had registered in accordance with chapter 112, but only under c. 112 § 9, which grants a limited authority to practice within a specific hospital, rather than under the general registration provision, c. 112 § 2, which permits practice anywhere in the Commonwealth. Plaintiff maintains that § 79's reference to chapter 112 means c. 112 § 2 but not c. 112 § 9.

Plaintiff's interpretation ignores the plain language of the statute. Had the legislature meant to permit only physicians qualified under § 2 to request care, it could undoubtedly have said so rather than leaving this significant limitation to judicial inference. Moreover, plaintiff's interpretation would render superfluous § 79's requirement that the requesting physician be a medical school graduate; all physicians registered under § 2 must be graduates, but a limited registration under § 9 may be obtained after only three and a half years of medical school study. Defendant Morgan, though having only a limited registration, was a medical school graduate. Finally, we note that registration under § 9, while confining the physician to a specific hospital, places no restrictions on his authority to practice medicine within the hospital walls. Cf. Barrette v. Hight, 353 Mass. 268, 273, 230 N.E. 2d 808 (1967). We hesitate to create legal restrictions without clear statutory mandate, especially since such restrictions would seriously limit the usefulness of the many internes and residents registered under § 9.1

Plaintiff also argues that defendants have lost their right to judgments notwithstanding the verdict by failing to renew their motions for directed verdict at the close of all the evidence as required by Rule 50, Fed.R. Civ.P. The record indicates that all six of the defendants filed motions for directed verdicts at the close of plaintiff's evidence. The court announced that it would reserve its rulings and ordered trial to proceed. Thereafter only defendant Morgan — whose motion for a directed verdict was rendered moot by his favorable verdict — offered evidence. This evidence, consisting of the brief testimony of the three police officers who took plaintiff to Cambridge City Hospital, was relevant to Morgan's case but bore only tangentially on the liability of the remaining defendants. Later that same day, the court informed plaintiff's counsel that he would have an opportunity to rebut defendants' arguments "when I deal with the motions". After the jury retired, the court set a time for the filing of briefs on the motions for directed verdicts. Memoranda were duly filed. While technical noncompliance with Rule 50 always invites trouble, compare Gillentine v. McKeand, 426 F.2d 717, 1st Cir. 1970), circumstances we have related bring this case squarely within our holding in Bayamon Thom McAn, Inc. v. Miranda, 409 F.2d 968, 972 (1st Cir. 1969): "A case combining * * * judicial assurance concerning preservation of rights at the time of motion and * * * brief and inconsequential evidence following the motion * * * is a proper case for the liberal construction commended by Fed.R.Civ.P. 1 in the interests of justice."

This brings us to the central issue on appeal: whether the evidence was sufficient to support the jury verdicts against the five defendants who treated plaintiff while confined. Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff had the burden of showing both that these defendants acted under color of state law and that they deprived her of federally protected rights, here the right to due process guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Stringer v. Dilger, 313 F.2d 536, 540 (10th Cir. 1963); see Cohen v. Norris, 300 F.2d 24, 30 (9th Cir. 1962).2 No question is raised on appeal concerning whether defendants acted under color of state law. To carry the second part of her burden, plaintiff argues that defendants denied her due process by ignoring lawful procedures and by performing their statutory duties in a perfunctory manner. Neither theory will bear close inspection.

Plaintiff's allegations concerning abuse of lawful procedure are based in part on a misunderstanding of what Mass.Gen.Laws c. 123 §§ 77 and 79 require. We have already ruled that defendant Morgan was an appropriate person to make the initial request for hospitalization under § 79. Section 79 imposes an additional duty on the superintendent of the receiving hospital, here defendant Sharp, either to release the patient within ten days or to initiate legal proceedings for a longer commitment. Defendants chose the latter course after examining plaintiff at a meeting of the staff on the first full working day following her admission. Plaintiff argues that the § 79 determination should have been made by defendant Grimberg when she first arrived at Westborough State. This interpretation, however, would defeat the evident purpose of § 79 to insure that the choice between commitment and release is based on careful...

To continue reading

Request your trial
21 cases
  • Smith v. University of North Carolina
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • September 30, 1980
    ...Thom McAn, Inc. v. Miranda, 409 F.2d at 971-72, and (d) where the additional evidence was brief and inconsequential, Beaumont v. Morgan, 427 F.2d 667, 670 (1st Cir. 1970), are not applicable here. See 5A Moore's Federal Practice P 50.08 at 50-88 to -91 III. Were the District Court's Finding......
  • Wells Real Estate, Inc. v. Greater Lowell Bd. of Realtors
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • February 1, 1988
    ...a motion need not be repeated at the close of all evidence if such a repetition is clearly superfluous or futile. See Beaumont v. Morgan, 427 F.2d 667 (1st Cir.1970); Bayamon Thom McAn, Inc. v. Miranda, 409 F.2d 968 (1st Cir.1969). However, such a case will be unusual, existing only when th......
  • Della Grotta v. State of R.I., 85-1214
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • January 17, 1986
    ...exception adopted by this court in Bayamon Thom McAn, Inc. v. Miranda, 409 F.2d 968, 971-72 (1st Cir.1969). See also Beaumont v. Morgan, 427 F.2d 667, 669 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 882, 91 S.Ct. 120, 27 L.Ed.2d 121 (1970). In Bayamon, defendants moved for a directed verdict at the ......
  • Miller v. Rowan Companies, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • May 1, 1987
    ...1026, 104 S.Ct. 1284, 79 L.Ed.2d 687 (1984); Quinn v. Southwest Wood Products, Inc., 597 F.2d 1018, 1025 (5th Cir.1979); Beaumont v. Morgan, 427 F.2d 667, 670 (1st Cir.), cert. denied sub. nom. Beaumont v. Aussenheimer, 400 U.S. 882, 91 S.Ct. 120, 27 L.Ed.2d 121 (1970); Bonner v. Coughlin, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT