Ellison v. Garbarino, No. 94-5015

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSILER; MILES
Citation48 F.3d 192
PartiesRick R. ELLISON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. A.J. GARBARINO, M.D.; William M. HOGAN, M.D.; Stewart BRAMSON, M.D.; Bruce GREEN, M.D.; Peninsula Psychiatric Center, Inc., Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date24 February 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-5015

Page 192

48 F.3d 192
Rick R. ELLISON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
A.J. GARBARINO, M.D.; William M. HOGAN, M.D.; Stewart
BRAMSON, M.D.; Bruce GREEN, M.D.; Peninsula
Psychiatric Center, Inc., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 94-5015.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Submitted Jan. 24, 1995.
Decided Feb. 24, 1995.

Page 193

Thomas M. Leveille (briefed), Ramsey & Leveille, Knoxville, TN, for Rick R. Ellison.

M. Lacy West (briefed), Julia C. West, West & Rose, Kingsport, TN, for A.J. Garbarino, M.D.

James G. O'Kane, Jr. (briefed), Baker, McReynolds, Byrne, Brackett, O'Kane & Shea, Knoxville, TN, for William M. Hogan, M.D., Bruce Q. Green, M.D.

E. Blake Moore (briefed), Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, Chattanooga, TN, for Stewart Bramson, M.D.

Foster D. Arnett (briefed), Thomas M. Cole (briefed), Arnett, Draper & Hagood, Knoxville, TN, for Peninsula Psychiatric Center, Inc.

Page 194

Before: RYAN and SILER, Circuit Judges; and MILES, District Judge. *

SILER, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which RYAN, J., joined. MILES, D. J. (pp. 197-98), delivered a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

SILER, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Rick Ellison challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants A.J. Garbarino, William Hogan, Stewart Bramson, Bruce Green and Peninsula Psychiatric Center, Inc. after finding that none of the defendants was a state actor for purposes of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The claim arose from a civil commitment of plaintiff to the mental hospital. None of the defendants is a state employee or agency.

For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the decision of the district court.

I.

Debbie Ellison, the wife of Plaintiff Rick Ellison, believed that her husband was suffering from psychological problems and would become violent. Fearing for her safety, Ms. Ellison obtained an order of transport from the General Sessions Court of Cocke County, Tennessee, which authorized deputies of the Cocke County Sheriff to transport Mr. Ellison to the office of Defendant Dr. Garbarino for psychological evaluation. Dr. Garbarino determined that plaintiff needed medical attention and signed a Certification of Need for Emergency Admission pursuant to Sec. 33-6-103 of the Tennessee Code. The deputies then transported plaintiff to Peninsula Hospital, a hospital privately owned and operated by Defendant Peninsula Psychiatric Center, Inc. Upon plaintiff's arrival, Defendant Dr. Stewart Bramson, a private physician employed by the hospital, evaluated plaintiff and determined that plaintiff was indeed mentally ill and posed an immediate likelihood of serious harm to his wife and/or his children. 1 Dr. Bramson executed a second Certification of Need for Emergency Admission, which is necessary under Tennessee law to privately commit an individual involuntarily.

On January 6, 1992, the General Sessions Court for Blount County, Tennessee ordered the detention of plaintiff for emergency diagnosis, evaluation and treatment and a probable cause hearing. Plaintiff remained in the hospital until January 10, 1992, when the General Sessions Court determined, based upon the certificates of a psychologist and a physician, that plaintiff was not in need of further emergency care and treatment.

Plaintiff sued the defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. After determining that none of the defendants was a "state actor" for purposes of Sec. 1983, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants.

II.

This court reviews a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Wolotsky v. Huhn, 960 F.2d 1331, 1334 (6th Cir.1992). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Canderm Pharmacal, Ltd. v. Elder Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 862 F.2d 597, 601 (6th Cir.1988). In making this determination, this court will view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Wolotsky, 960 F.2d at 1334.

A Sec. 1983 claim must satisfy two elements: "1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and 2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law." Simescu v. Emmet County Dept. of Social Servs., 942 F.2d 372, 374 (6th Cir.1991) (citing Flagg Brothers, Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155, 98 S.Ct. 1729, 1733, 56 L.Ed.2d 185 (1978)). The parties do not contest that this case

Page 195

implicates a constitutional right to liberty. The parties do dispute, however, whether the plaintiff can establish that defendants acted under color of state law. Specifically, the parties dispute whether defendants are "state actors," that is, whether their actions are "fairly attributable to the state." Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 2753-54, 73 L.Ed.2d 482 (1982).

This circuit recognizes three tests for determining whether private conduct is fairly attributable to the state: the public function test, the state compulsion test, and the nexus test. Wolotsky, 960 F.2d at 1335. The public function test "requires that the private entity exercise powers which are traditionally exclusively reserved to the state...." Id. The typical examples are running elections or eminent domain. The state compulsion test requires proof that the state significantly encouraged or somehow coerced the private party, either overtly or covertly, to take a particular action so that the choice is really that of the state. Id. Finally, the nexus test requires a sufficiently close relationship (i.e., through state regulation or contract) between the state and the private actor so that the action taken may be attributed to the state. Id. Plaintiff's primary contention is that defendants performed a public function when they committed plaintiff to the psychiatric institution pursuant to Tennessee state statutes.

A private individual in Tennessee may admit a person involuntarily, pursuant to an officer's or licensed physician's direction, if the individual and the physician or officer find, in part, that the patient is mentally ill and poses an immediate substantial threat of serious harm to himself or others. Tenn.Code Ann. Sec. 33-6-103(a) & (b). Section 33-6-104 defines serious harm, in part, as threatening suicide or homicide. Judicial action is not necessary in order to obtain the initial certification for emergency psychiatric care. Id. Sec. 33-6-104. Plaintiff relies almost exclusively on these provisions as proof that the defendants were state actors.

The issue of whether a private physician's decision to admit a patient pursuant to a state involuntary commitment statute implicates state action is one of first impression for this circuit. For this reason, we look to the case law of our sister circuits, as well as analogous case law of this circuit, for guidance on this issue.

Turning first to the decisions of our sister circuits, a majority of courts hold that involuntary commitment by private physicians pursuant to a state statute does not result in state action. For instance, in Rockwell v. Cape Cod Hospital, 26 F.3d 254 (1st Cir.1994), two private physicians admitted Rockwell pursuant to a Massachusetts statute for emergency...

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188 practice notes
  • Anderson v. County of Hamilton, Case Action No. 1:09–cv–798.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • March 14, 2011
    ...relationship between the state and the private actor, such as through state regulation or contract. Id. ( citing Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th Cir.1995)). Here, there is no suggestion of any relationship between Ms. Scherr and the state, either through personal relationships w......
  • Kerr v. Hurd, Case No. 3:07-cv-297.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • March 15, 2010
    ...Supp.2d 838 Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, 180 F.3d 758, 763 (6th Cir.1999); Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th The public function test requires that "the private entity exercise powers which are traditionally exclusively reserved to the stat......
  • Alahverdian v. Ohio, Case No. 3:13-cv-113
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • May 10, 2013
    ...in Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, 180 F.3d 758, 763 (6th Cir. 1999); Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th Cir. 1995). In reversing the Sixth Circuit in Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, 531 U.S. 288 (2001), ......
  • Moldowan v. City of Warren, No. 07-2115.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 1, 2009
    ...regulation or contract) between the state and the private actor so that the action may be attributed to the state. Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th Cir.1995) (citations omitted). Moldowan offers no basis for concluding that any of these tests applies here. Providing information t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
186 cases
  • Anderson v. County of Hamilton, Case Action No. 1:09–cv–798.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • March 14, 2011
    ...relationship between the state and the private actor, such as through state regulation or contract. Id. ( citing Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th Cir.1995)). Here, there is no suggestion of any relationship between Ms. Scherr and the state, either through personal relationships w......
  • Kerr v. Hurd, Case No. 3:07-cv-297.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • March 15, 2010
    ...Supp.2d 838 Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, 180 F.3d 758, 763 (6th Cir.1999); Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th The public function test requires that "the private entity exercise powers which are traditionally exclusively reserved to the stat......
  • Alahverdian v. Ohio, Case No. 3:13-cv-113
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • May 10, 2013
    ...in Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, 180 F.3d 758, 763 (6th Cir. 1999); Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th Cir. 1995). In reversing the Sixth Circuit in Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, 531 U.S. 288 (2001), ......
  • Moldowan v. City of Warren, No. 07-2115.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 1, 2009
    ...regulation or contract) between the state and the private actor so that the action may be attributed to the state. Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th Cir.1995) (citations omitted). Moldowan offers no basis for concluding that any of these tests applies here. Providing information t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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