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Doan v. Bergeron

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 23, 2016

KIM ANH THI DOAN, Plaintiff-Petitioner,
v.
SUZANNE BERGERON, et al., Defendants-Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Indira Talwani, United States District Judge

         Kim Anh Thi Doan was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and held at the Bristol County House of Correction, under the stewardship of the Bristol County Sheriff's Office. Her First Amended Complaint [#77] alleges that the mental health care she received while detained was constitutionally inadequate, and that the defendants involuntarily medicated Doan and failed to protect her from involuntary medication and inadequate treatment.[1]

         The defendants have all moved to dismiss the complaint. For the reasons set forth herein, Thomas M. Hodgson's and Judith Borges' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [#79] is ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, Bristol County's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Judgment on the Pleadings [#120] is ALLOWED, and Sean Gallagher's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [#132] motion is ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Facts as Alleged in the Amended Complaint a. Background

         Doan was born in Vietnam in 1971. First Am. Compl. ¶ 24. She came to the United States as a lawful permanent resident on September 5, 1995. Id. ¶ 25. In 1998, she was charged in Connecticut with murder. Id., Ex. A at 1. After a number of medical evaluations, Doan was found to “‘suffer[] from various mental disorders' and [to have] committed the offense while suffering from resultant ‘extreme emotional distress.'” Id., Ex. A at 2. Connecticut downgraded the charge from murder to first degree manslaughter, and in 2001 she was found competent to enter a plea of nolo contendere to this charge. Id., Ex. A at 2. Doan was sentenced to seventeen years in prison. Id. ¶ 42; Ex. A at 2.

         b. ICE's Notice to Appear and Subsequent Detention of Doan

         On January 31, 2013, ICE served Doan with a Notice to Appear, which charged her with removability based on her conviction for an aggravated felony, crime of violence, and crime of moral turpitude for which the term of imprisonment was at least one year. Id., Ex. A at 2.

         On January 8, 2014, when Doan completed her criminal sentence in Connecticut, she was transferred to ICE custody. Id. ¶ 44. Doan remained in ICE custody for approximately 22 months, first with the Bristol County House of Correction until October 20, 2015 and then with the Strafford County Department of Corrections in New Hampshire. Notice Transfer [#72].[2]

         c. The Arrangement for Detention and Medical Services for Immigration Detainees

         In September of 2007, ICE entered into an Intergovernmental Service Agreement with the Bristol County Sheriff's Office, whereby the Bristol County Sheriff's Office agreed to provide detention and on-site medical services for immigration detainees held by ICE. See First Am. Compl. ¶ 132; Ex. F.

         On December 6, 2009, Bristol County, with signatories from both the Bristol County Sheriff's Office and the Bristol County Commissioners, entered into a contract with Correctional Psychiatric Services (“CPS”) for CPS to provide medical services to inmates and detainees held by the Bristol County Sheriff's Office. Id. ¶¶ 15, 141; Ex. H. The agreement, in its preamble, stated that the Sheriff's office had “an obligation to provide necessary comprehensive medical services to . . . detentioners . . . of the County of Bristol's correctional institutions.” Id., Ex. H. at 1.

         The agreement authorized the Bristol County Sheriff's Office to conduct performance audits of CPS, monitor CPS employee licensure, and generally set “rules and regulations” governing CPS's conduct. Id., Ex. H. at 3, 6. The original contract was for a term expiring in 2012. Id., Ex. H. The contract authorized the Bristol County Sheriff's Office to extend the agreement for one-year terms, id., and both parties agree that the contract has been extended each year.

         d. Doan's Medical Care

         Doan alleges that she still suffers from severe mental illness and disabling intellectual deficits, see, e.g., First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 164-170, and that while in ICE custody at the Bristol County House of Correction, she received constitutionally inadequate psychiatric care at the hands of CPS. Id. ¶ 207. Specifically, Doan alleges that CPS administered to Doan two psychiatric medications, Haldol and Cogentin, even though Doan was incapable of providing informed consent to receive psychiatric medications and no court has authorized the administration of medications to Doan involuntarily. Id. ¶¶ 171, 173-74, 177-78, 181. Doan further alleges that CPS failed to independently assess whether Haldol and Cogentin were appropriate for Doan's specific condition and failed to provide any other treatment to Doan, such as individual and group therapy. Id. ¶¶ 175, 188.

         Hodgson, as Sheriff for Bristol County, was responsible for the operation of the Bristol County House of Correction. First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11. Doan alleges that Hodgson was aware of Doan's severe mental illness and cognitive impairments. Id. ¶ 206. Further, Doan alleges that Hodgson acted with “deliberate indifference” to the conditions of Doan's confinement and “failed to take steps to protect her from the serious harm for which she [was] at risk.” Id. ¶¶ 213, 214, 229, 230.

         Borges, as the Director of Medical Services for the Bristol County Sheriff's Office, was responsible for the Bristol County House of Correction's medical and psychiatric care. Id. ¶ 14. She had the “ultimate decision-making authority with regard to [Doan's] medical treatment” while Doan was detained. Id. Doan alleges that Borges was aware of Doan's severe mental illness and cognitive impairments and that Borges acted with “deliberate indifference” to the conditions of Doan's confinement and “failed to take steps to protect her from the serious harm for which she [was] at risk.” Id. ¶ 230. Doan also alleges that Borges affirmatively denied requests for additional care. Specifically, in January 2015, Borges responded to a request from an attorney at Prisoners' Legal Services for a psychiatric examination. Id. ¶¶ 122-24; Ex. D, E. Borges did not permit this psychiatric examination, explaining that a request for a psychiatric examination must be submitted to and approved by ICE. Id., Ex. E. In the response, Borges further stated that the “onsite mental health department” at the Bristol County House of Correction was “solely responsible for treatment, care, and all clinical decisions regarding those in our custody.” Id. ¶ 125; Ex. E.

         Sean Gallagher is the Director of the Field Office for ICE's Boston Area. Doan alleges that Gallagher was “aware of the conditions of [Doan's] confinement, her lack of adequate medical care, and the administration of antipsychotic medication without her informed consent or a court order.” First. Am. Compl. ¶ 189. Gallagher allegedly had the authority to reconsider the conditions of Doan's custody by releasing Doan to a psychiatric facility to ensure that she received adequate care, but he refused to do so despite being aware of Doan's inadequate treatment. Id. ¶¶ 82, 190.

         II. Discussion

         a. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In resolving such a motion, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). The court, however, need not accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id. “Threadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678.

         b. Bristol County

         Doan brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for failure to train and supervise, and inadequate screening against Bristol County. First Am. Compl. Count VI.[3] Bristol County moves to dismiss Count VI on various grounds. One is persuasive-that the obligations of the Bristol County Sheriff's Office and those of Bristol County related to ...


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