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Brown v. Hill

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 7, 2014

MELVIN BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
SANDRA HILL, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TANYA S. CHUTKAN, United States District Judge

This matter is before the court on the defendants’ motions to dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, the motions will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed his initial complaint on December 11, 2013, and an Amended Complaint [ECF No. 13] on November 21, 2014. The defendants include So Others Might Eat, its President, and several of its staff members (collectively, “S.O.M.E.”), see Am. Compl. at 1-2, Green Door, its President and several staff members (collectively, “Green Door”), id. at 2, and David Walker (“Walker”), a District of Columbia government employee, see id. at 2, 4-5. Although the bases of the plaintiff’s claims are not entirely clear, the court begins with its understanding of the relevant facts.

The plaintiff received services from S.O.M.E., Green Door, and the District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health (“DBH”), formerly known as the Department of Mental Health. See Compl. at 3. The District of Columbia contracted with Green Door, which the Plaintiff identifies as “his core service agency, ” presumably to provide mental health services for District residents such as the Plaintiff.[1] Id.; see Am. Compl. at 6. The Plaintiff lived at Shalom House, a residence operated by S.O.M.E.[2] See Am. Compl. at 6-7. He apparently was dissatisfied with certain S.O.M.E. employees and services, and he “filed grievance(s)/complaints against [S.O.M.E.].” Id. at 7; see Compl. at 5. According to the Plaintiff, S.O.M.E. not only ignored his grievances, but also retaliated against him, beginning with Margaret Simmons’s call to the DBH’s Health’s Access Helpline on December 2, 2010, Compl. at 2; see Am. Compl. at 7, “purportedly seeking cris[i]s assistance for [the Plaintiff], ” Am. Compl. at 4.

Walker took the call, and in the course of his conversation with Simmons, Walker allegedly “disclosed the plaintiff’s mental health information, ” id. at 4-5, and Simmons wrongfully obtained this information, id. at 12, without the Plaintiff’s permission, see id. at 5, 8, 12-13; Compl. at 2. Walker referred Simmons to Green Door, whose staff members in turn “disclosed protected health information . . . to Margaret Simmons [and] Ann Chauvin, ” Compl. at 3, S.O.M.E.’s Chief Medical Officer, Am. Compl. at 1. In the course of these conversations, either Green Door or DBH staff “told or disclosed that [the Plaintiff] had not taken his meds for months[, ]” and disclosed his diagnosis. Compl. at 3.

According to the Plaintiff, “Ann Chauvin, Suzanne Bond and Belinda Sealey ‘concocted a story, ’” Compl. at 3, and “made false allegations to the [Metropolitan Police Department], causing [him] to be deprived of his liberty, ” Am. Compl. at 5. “Chauvin initiated [a] referral (as if the plaintiff is bi-polar or psychotic), ” prompting the Department of Behavioral Health to dispatch a Mobile Crisis Team to Shalom House on January 13, 2011. Am. Compl. at 5; see Pl.’s Mot. Opposing Green Door’s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 2. Chauvin reported that she and two other S.O.M.E. staff members found notes under their office doors from the plaintiff using “threatening words such as ‘murder’ and ‘die.’” Pl.’s Mot. Opposing Moving Parties[’] Motion to Dismiss at 30 (page numbers designated by ECF). The Plaintiff reportedly became “increasingly agitated, ” id. at 31, and these staff members felt “threatened and sufficiently concerned such that [they] made a call to the [Department of Behavioral Health] Mobile Crisis Team, ” id. at 30.

The Mobile Crisis Team arrived at Shalom House with police officers. Id. They handcuffed the Plaintiff and transferred him to the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP), described by the Plaintiff as “a psych ward, ” Am. Compl. at 4, by ambulance and accompanied by police officers, see id. at 6; Compl. at 4. According to Amelia Villaruz, M.D., who conducted a psychiatric evaluation of the plaintiff on January 13, 2011, the Plaintiff’s “speech [was] rambling and pressured with disorganized thoughts and loose associations.” Pl.’s Mot. Opposing Moving Parties[’] Motion to Dismiss at 40. She reported that the Plaintiff had “no insight to his illness, ” and he “refused medications ordered.” Id. This was the Plaintiff’s fifth admission to CPEP. Id. He refused to take prescribed medications over the next two days, and “continue[d] to be delusional and [easily] agitated when approached.” Id. at 41. Dr. Villaruz certified that the Plaintiff exhibited symptoms of mental illness and, as a result, he was likely to injure himself and others if he were not detained immediately. See id. at 42. He was subsequently “transferred to PIW (Psychiatric Institute of Washington) for 4 days [and was] forced [to take] meds (in heavy dosages.).” Am. Compl. at 4; see Compl. at 4. The Plaintiff was discharged on January 19, 2011, at which time he was “stable and improved” and “compliant with the medications.” Pl.’s Mot. Opposing Moving Parties[’] Motion to Dismiss at 45. He no longer “[met] criteria for [involuntary] commitment and refuse[d] to be a voluntary inpatient.” Id.

The Plaintiff appears to bring two claims. First, he alleges that “the defendants conspired to deprive him of his liberty.” Am. Compl. at 4 (emphasis omitted); see id. at 9; see Compl. at 4. The court construes these allegations as a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of rights protected by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Second, insofar as the defendants obtained and disclosed mental health information about the Plaintiff without his permission, the Court construes the Amended Complaint as bringing claims under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), see 42 U.S.C. § 1320d-6, and the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act (“DCMHIA”), see D.C. Code § 7-1201.01 et seq. The Plaintiff demands compensatory and punitive damages totaling $16, 500, 000. Am. Compl. at 12.

The Clerk of Court received the Plaintiff’s original complaint and application to proceed in forma pauperis on December 11, 2013. The court granted the Plaintiff’s application by order . The Court dismissed the complaint, and the Plaintiff appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Circuit ordered:

that the case be remanded for the district court to reconsider the dismissal of [the plaintiff’s] complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. [The plaintiff’s] complaint alleges that the defendants, at least one of whom is alleged to be a District of Columbia employee, wrongfully disclosed his medical information and deprived him of his liberty by making false allegations to the police. The civil cover sheet accompanying the complaint cites 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the civil statute under which the case of action was filed. It appears, therefore, that [the plaintiff] was attempting to invoke the district court’s jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction) . . . . But if [the plaintiff] were to file a new complaint stating the basis for the district court’s jurisdiction, the complaint would be time-barred . . . . Accordingly, in the interest of justice, the district court is directed to allow [the plaintiff] to amend his complaint to clearly state the jurisdictional basis for this action and all of the claims [he] is attempting to raise . . . .

Brown v. Hill, No. 14-7028 (D.C. Cir. filed July 25, 2014) (per curiam). The Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on November 21, 2014.

II. DISCUSSION[3]

A. There Is No Private Right of Action Under ...


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