Moore v. Wyoming Medical Center

Decision Date01 July 1993
Docket NumberNo. 92-CV-1037-B.,92-CV-1037-B.
Citation825 F. Supp. 1531
PartiesBecky S. MOORE, Plaintiff, v. WYOMING MEDICAL CENTER, a Wyoming corporation, Timothy Francis Weaver, an individual, and Michael Hendershot, an individual, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Wyoming

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Robert G. Pickering, Bailey, Pickering & Stock, Cheyenne, WY, for plaintiff.

Hampton K. O'Neill, Roger E. Shumate, Murane & Bostwick, Casper, WY, for defendants.

ORDER DENYING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON ALL CLAIMS EXCEPT PLAINTIFF'S CIVIL CONSPIRACY CAUSE OF ACTION

BRIMMER, District Judge.

The above-entitled matter having come before the Court upon the defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's motion in opposition thereto, and the Court having reviewed the materials on file herein, having heard argument from the parties, and being fully advised in the premises, FINDS and ORDERS as follows:

Background

Plaintiff Becky Moore ("Moore") is a thirty-one year old person with a history of mental illness. On the afternoon of December 5, 1989, Moore called the Central Wyoming Counseling Center to request medication to help her sleep. Moore's physician, Doctor Robert D. Brown, had prescribed Mellaril for Moore's condition.1 Mellaril is a drug often prescribed for schizophrenics and manic-depressives.2 When Moore called, neither Dr. Brown nor Moore's therapist, Ms. Susan Crabtree, were available. That evening, Ms. Crabtree returned Moore's call. The conversation is disputed. Moore testified that she told Crabtree that "if I am unable to get some sleep, my body is going to shut down." Crabtree testified in her deposition that Moore stated, "If I don't get some sleep, I'm going to kill myself."

Crabtree believed that Moore intended to commit suicide based on this conversation. Crabtree called to alert the Casper Police and the Wyoming Medical Center, both of whom dispatched personnel to Moore's home as a result. Marla Ross, a co-worker of Moore's, arrived at Moore's home around the same time the police arrived. Ross went upstairs to find Moore showering in her bathroom. Ross asked Moore if she could enter, but Moore said no. The Casper police spoke with Ross and told Ross that they understood that Moore was suicidal. Ross apparently denied this. Ross and the police further consulted, jointly deciding that Ross should try again to enter the bathroom. All the while, Moore was unaware the police were present in her home.

Co-worker Ross successfully entered the bathroom and spoke with Moore. Moore reacted angrily, but then calmed down. Ross subsequently exited the bathroom and informed the police that Moore appeared calm. Ross testified in her deposition that one of the police officers told her that "It looks like you've got it under control. She sounds so much better now." Ross re-entered the bathroom to urge Moore to dress (since Ross knew the police were outside, but Moore did not). Moore directed Ross to get her a blanket from Moore's bedroom closet. Ross exited the bathroom a second time to procure the blanket.

While Ross sought a blanket, firemen and defendant-paramedics Timothy Weaver ("Weaver") and Michael Hendershot ("Hendershot") arrived at the house. Hendershot questioned the police officers on the scene. Hendershot testified in his deposition that one of the officers told him that "things were quiet right now."

Hendershot, Weaver and two others proceeded to the top landing outside Moore's bathroom door. At this point, Hendershot radioed the Wyoming Medical Center and advised that all was quiet. Dr. Ronald D. Iverson, the supervising physician at the medical center, apparently ordered Hendershot to bring Moore to Wyoming Medical Center even if she had to be brought against her wishes. A transcript of this radio conversation indicates that Dr. Iverson wanted Moore brought to Wyoming Medical Center immediately because she was taking Mellaril and also told Crabtree that she would kill herself if she didn't get some sleep.

Ross returned to the top of the stairs with the blanket requested by Moore. Ross asked the two paramedics if she might deliver the blanket before they entered the bathroom. One of the men allegedly pushed Ross back and stated, "if we need your help, we'll ask for it."

Hendershot then tapped on the bathroom door and identified himself. Moore responded that she did not want anyone to come in. The paramedics advised Moore that she should accompany them to the hospital. Moore said she did not want to go and threw a shampoo bottle at the men. Weaver and Hendershot entered the bathroom, grabbed Moore, forced her to the floor and handcuffed her. At the time Moore was naked. Moore requested that the men clothe her. One of the men apparently told her, "You don't have a choice."

Weaver and Hendershot put Moore in a horizontal position and carried her outside to the ambulance. Neighbors had gathered outside Moore's home to observe the commotion. On the way to the medical center, the paramedics were unable to perform any of the standard procedures typically required for drug-overdose patients including taking vital signs, checking respiration and circulation. Moore was involuntarily admitted to the emergency room at Wyoming Medical Center.

Plaintiff Moore complains that the defendants detained her without adequate or proper investigation, without authority or probable cause, and ignored her repeated pleas to cover her body prior to being transported. Moore further complains that the defendants did not inform her of her rights nor did they complete the required forms in support of her detention, all pursuant to Wyoming's Emergency Detention Statute, Section 25-10-101, et seq. Plaintiff brought this suit under section 1983, also alleging various common law torts.

Standard of Review

"By its very terms, the Rule 56(c) standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there is no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (emphasis in original).

The trial court decides which facts are material as a matter of law. "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510; see also Carey v. United States Postal Service, 812 F.2d 621, 623 (10th Cir.1987). Summary judgment may be entered "against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Carey, 812 F.2d at 623. The relevant inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Carey, 812 F.2d at 623. In considering a party's motion for summary judgment, the court must examine all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Barber v. General Elec. Co., 648 F.2d 1272, 1276 n. 1 (10th Cir.1981).

Discussion

The Court divides its analysis into four sections: (1) whether Wyoming Statute § 25-10-109 is constitutional; (2) whether the defendant Wyoming Medical Center acted under color of state law; (3) whether the defendants may assert the defenses of qualified immunity or municipal immunity; and, (4) state law claims.

1. Whether Wyoming Statute § 25-10-109 is constitutional.

Wyoming's Emergency Detention statute, Section 25-10-109, provides that a person may be detained by a law enforcement officer or a medical examiner where that officer or examiner has reasonable cause to believe the person is mentally ill. WYO. STAT. § 25-10-109(a) (Michie's 1990).3 The statute defines a mentally ill person as one who has a physical, emotional, mental or behavioral disorder which causes him or her to be dangerous to him or herself or others, and which requires treatment. WYO.STAT. § 25-10-101(ix).

The phrase "dangerous to himself or others" is defined as follows:

(ii) "Dangerous to himself or others" means that, as a result of mental illness, a person:
(A) Evidences a substantial probability of physical harm to himself as manifested by evidence of recent threats of or attempts at suicide or serious bodily harm; or
(B) Evidences a substantial probability of physical harm to other individuals as manifested by a recent overt homicidal act, attempt or threat or other violent act, attempt or threat which places others in reasonable fear of serious physical harm to them; or
(C) Evidences behavior manifested by recent acts or omissions that, due to mental illness, he is unable to satisfy basic needs for nourishment, essential medical care, shelter or safety so that a substantial probability exists that death, serious physical injury, serious physical debilitation or serious physical disease will imminently ensue, unless the individual receives prompt and adequate treatment for the mental illness. No person, however, shall be deemed to be unable to satisfy his need for nourishment, essential medical care, shelter or safety if he is able to satisfy those needs with the supervision and assistance of others who are willing and available.

WYO.STAT. § 25-10-101(ii).

A medical examiner must examine the detainee within twenty-four hours after he or she is detained, otherwise the detainee must be released. WYO.STAT. § 25-10-109(b). The detained person may be held for up to seventy-two hours if the examiner determines that he or she is mentally ill and dangerous as defined under Section 25-10-101(ii). The detainee should be hospitalized at a "suitable" medical facility. WYO.STAT. § 25-10-109(d). The officer or examiner who...

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