In re N.G.

Decision Date25 January 2022
Docket Number54362-1-II consol. with No. 54949-2-II
Citation503 P.3d 1
Parties In the MATTER OF the DETENTION OF N.G. and C.M., Appellant.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals

PUBLISHED OPINION

Maxa, P.J.

¶1 This consolidated case involves two people, NG and CM, who remained involuntarily committed at Western State Hospital (WSH) for over 30 days after their 180-day involuntary commitment period had expired. When WSH discovered what had happened, WSH had NG and CM evaluated for 72-hour detentions and filed new petitions for 14 days of involuntary treatment under new cause numbers. Both NG and CM filed motions to dismiss the 14-day petitions. The trial courts denied NG's motion to dismiss and granted CM's motion to dismiss.

¶2 The parties agree that WSH violated provisions of the Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA), chapter 71.05 RCW, in both cases by continuing to detain NG and CM without filing new petitions for an additional 180 days of involuntary commitment or releasing them. However, RCW 71.05.010(2) provides that courts must focus on the merits of the petition when construing the requirements of the ITA "except where requirements have been totally disregarded." The legislature and courts have not defined the term "totally disregarded."

¶3 We hold that dismissal of a new 14-day petition for involuntary treatment under a new cause number is an available remedy when a committed person is detained improperly beyond the end date of an involuntary commitment order, but only if the petitioner has totally disregarded ITA requirements. In addition, we hold that in determining whether a petitioner has totally disregarded ITA requirements, a trial court must consider the totality of the circumstances. These circumstances include (1) whether the violation of the statutory requirements occurred knowingly, willfully or through gross negligence; (2) the extent of the deprivation of the committed person's liberty; (3) the extent to which the petitioner's conduct and the committed person's requested remedy are protective of the committed person's health and safety and reflect appropriate treatment for the committed person; and (4) the extent to which the petitioner's conduct and the committed person's requested remedy are protective of the safety of the public.

¶4 Because it is unclear what standard the trial courts applied in these cases, we remand both NG's and CM's cases for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

FACTS
NGBackground

¶5 NG suffered from schizophrenia and had been a patient at WSH since 2014 pursuant to various involuntary commitment orders. In June 2019, the trial court granted a petition for 180 days of involuntary commitment under the 2014 cause number on the grounds that NG was gravely disabled. NG's 180-day commitment expired on December 24. However, NG was not discharged on that date and no additional petition for further detention had been filed at that time.

¶6 On January 23, 2020, WSH discovered that NG's 180-day involuntary commitment had expired without a new 180-day petition being filed. However, WSH did not release NG. Instead, a designated crisis responder (DCR) was contacted to evaluate NG for a 72-hour emergency detention for evaluation and treatment as allowed in former RCW 71.05.150(1) (2019). The DCR evaluated NG and petitioned the trial court for a 72-hour detention under a new 2020 cause number.

¶7 On January 27, Dr. Peter Bingcang and Dr. Jeff Crinean filed a petition for 14-days of involuntary treatment under the 2020 cause number. NG filed a motion to dismiss the 14-day petition on the grounds that WSH had totally disregarded the ITA's requirements.

¶8 The trial court heard oral argument on the motion to dismiss and also heard testimony from Dr. Crinean. Dr. Crinean explained that the error had occurred because of a computer problem. He stated that WSH's database for the petitions had not been maintained for five years and that WSH's normal protocol had broken down due to an unreliable computer system. Dr. Crinean admitted that he partially was at fault and that he was not as diligent as he should have been in monitoring NG's case. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss the 14-day petition. The court noted that the doctors and people working with NG had not engaged in any intentional conduct.

¶9 The trial court proceeded with a probable cause hearing regarding the 14-day petition for involuntary treatment. The court found that NG was gravely disabled and entered an order to involuntarily treat NG for up to 14 days.

¶10 Dr. Bingcang and Dr. Crinean subsequently filed a petition for 90-day involuntary treatment at WSH. At the beginning of the hearing on the 90-day petition, NG referenced the earlier motion to dismiss the 14-day petition and stated that she took exception to the ruling on that motion. The trial court again found that NG was gravely disabled and entered an order to involuntarily commit NG for up to 90 days.

¶11 NG appeals the trial court's two orders committing her to 14 days and an additional 90 days of involuntary treatment at WSH.

CM – Background

¶12 CM was diagnosed with schizoaffective bipolar disorder and had been a patient at WSH since being involuntarily committed in January 2018 under a 2017 cause number. On December 26, 2019, the trial court granted a petition for 180 days of involuntary treatment under the 2017 cause number on the grounds that CM was gravely disabled. CM's 180-day petition expired on June 23, 2020. However, CM was not discharged on that date and no additional petition for further detention had been successfully filed at that point.

¶13 At some point, WSH discovered that CM's 180-day involuntary commitment had expired without a new 180-day petition being filed. However, WSH did not release CM. Instead, on July 27, WSH had a DCR evaluate CM for a 72-hour detention. The DCR petitioned the trial court for a 72-hour detention for evaluation and treatment under a new 2020 cause number. The next day, Dr. Mary Zesiewicz and Dr. Tiffany Mohr filed a petition for 14 days of involuntary treatment at WSH.

¶14 CM filed a motion to dismiss the 14-day petition on the grounds that WSH had totally disregarded the ITA's requirements. The petitioners’ response provided no explanation as to why CM was detained after his 180-day involuntary commitment had expired. They argued only that dismissal of the 14-day petition was an inappropriate remedy for the violation.

¶15 The trial court heard oral argument on the motion to dismiss. The court noted that CM and the petitioners had submitted argument on the motion to dismiss and instructed the parties to provide a very brief oral argument. The petitioners did not offer to call witnesses to explain why CM was detained after the expiration of CM's 180-day involuntary commitment or otherwise make any request to explain the situation.

¶16 The trial court granted CM's motion to dismiss the 14-day petition. The court found that the unlawful detention under the expired involuntary commitment was a total disregard of the statutory requirements and rights set forth in the ITA. The petitioners then requested to supplement the record with declarations so there would be a complete factual record for any appeal, which the court granted.

¶17 The petitioners subsequently filed three declarations to supplement the record. Dr. Wendi Wachsmuth stated in her declaration that she completed a mental status examination with CM on June 1 for purposes of filing a new 180-day petition for involuntary treatment. She stated that she completed the new 180-day commitment petition on June 2 and then emailed the petition to the court scheduler that same day. Katelyn Carroll, a social worker at WSH, stated in her declaration that she served CM in person with the 180-day petition on June 4.

¶18 Dr. Faye Turley, the director of psychology at WSH, stated that she investigated why CM's additional 180-day petition for involuntary treatment was not filed with the court. She attached a copy of an email that was sent by the WSH hearings scheduler to the court clerk, defense counsel, and the office of the attorney general on June 4. The email referenced petitions that were to be filed on that date and included CM's name in the body of the email. Dr. Turley stated, "It is apparent that this email did not reach a number of its intended recipients, possibly due to an email system glitch." Clerk's Papers at 193.

¶19 After these declarations were filed, the trial court did not take any action regarding the court's dismissal of the 14-day petition. And the petitioners did not file a motion for reconsideration on the court's order granting the motion to dismiss.

¶20 Dr. Zesiewicz and Dr. Mohr appeal the trial court's order dismissing the 14-day petition regarding CM.

ANALYSIS
A. INVOLUNTARY TREATMENT ACT

¶21 The ITA governs the temporary detention for evaluation and treatment of persons with mental disorders and establishes procedures for 72-hour, 14-day, 90-day, and 180-day involuntary commitments. The legislature provided a statement of legislative intent for the ITA, including:

(a) To protect the health and safety of persons suffering from behavioral health disorders and to protect public safety
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4 cases
  • In re E.S.
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • 24 Mayo 2022
    ...the denial of her motion to dismiss and the second 14-day commitment order.¶ 3 We follow our recent opinion in In re Detention of N.G. , 20 Wash. App. 2d 819, 503 P.3d 1 (2022), pet. for review filed , No. 100690-0 (Wash. Feb. 24, 2022), and conclude that dismissal of a 14-day petition is a......
  • In re W.S.
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • 31 Mayo 2022
    ...pursuant to RCW 71.05.240. In re Det. of S.E., 199 Wash. App. 609, 627-28, 400 P.3d 1271 (2017) ; accord In re Det. of N.G., 20 Wash. App. 2d 819, 503 P.3d 1, 6 (2022) ; In re Det. of T.C., 11 Wash. App. 2d 51, 59-60, 450 P.3d 1230 (2019).¶14 Furthermore, we have previously determined that ......
  • In re Det. D.H.
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • 1 Febrero 2022
    ...person's requested remedy are protective of the safety of the public. In re Det. of N.G. , No. 54362-1-II, ––– Wash.App.2d ––––, ––––, 503 P.3d 1, 10 (Jan. 25, 2022), https://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/D2% 2054362-1-II% 20Published% 20Opinion.pdf. We review a trial court's totality of t......
  • In re R.F.
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • 10 Mayo 2022
    ...the timing requirements by setting the hearing for the next available docket day. Br. of Resp't at 8. We agree with the State. In In re Det. of N.G., we developed a framework which the trial court should analyze whether a petitioner "totally disregarded" the ITA's requirements. Wn. App., 50......

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