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Wade v. United States

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 14, 2016

JAMES WADE, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.


          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         On January 10, 2011, plaintiff James Wade filed a civil action against the United States and Donna Denese Atherton, MSW. Wade alleged that he suffered personal injuries caused by the negligence or wrongful acts or omissions by Atherton (who he believed to be an employee of the United States).[1] In brief, Wade alleged that defendant Atherton, then acting as his clinician during his methadone treatment, erroneously characterized him as being HIV positive and requiring HIV medications. He also alleged that she signed his name on a courtesy dose form without his knowledge or authorization and without verifying his medical information. She then submitted the dose form to a couple of out-of-state facilities.

         After various pretrial proceedings, on January 14, 2013, Wade and the United States reached an agreement and filed a Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice and without Costs and Interest. Thereafter, on May 8, 2013, this Court issued a memorandum and order granting Wade's renewed motion for default judgment as to Atherton. After a hearing, this Court awarded Wade $6, 500 in damages. A default judgment in favor of Wade entered on July 12, 2013.

         During those proceedings, Wade was represented by attorney Ross Annenberg. On January 12, 2016, more than two years after the case was closed, Wade filed a self-prepared letter. While the letter is not entirely coherent, Wade states that attorney Annenberg had been suspended from the practice of law while this case was ongoing. He further states that he had been so tired he was unable to properly bring the disbarment to the Court's attention during the pendency of the case.[2] He further alleges that he was given a “nuisance payment” in settlement of the case due to the mis-advice of his counsel, who advised that he should settle because he would lose the case. He now seeks to have the Court reopen this action for a hearing. Attached to this letter, Wade submitted a redacted copy of the Settlement Agreement and Release, along with a proposed complaint and other exhibits.[3]

         On January 13, 2016, the day after Wade filed his letter and exhibits, the clerk entered a First Execution against Atherton in the amount of $6, 524.84 with interest at the rate of .015% from the date of rendition of judgment.[4]

         On January 19, 2016, Wade filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         II. Discussion

         A. The Proposed Amended Complaint

         In the caption of Wade's proposed amended complaint, he lists as defendants “Abigail Williams and Associates, et al.” The proposed complaint alleges that Wade is resident of Roxbury and the defendant(s) are residents of Worcester, Massachusetts. In the body of the complaint, which otherwise is set forth in narrative form, Wade lists the defendants as (1) Abigail Williams, (2) Ross Annenberg, and (3) Donna Atherton Fisher. It alleges that in or about the fall of 2010, Abigail Williams and Ross Annenberg of the law firm Abigail Williams & Associates entered into a contract under which they agreed to bring suit on behalf of Wade against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act for personal injuries caused by the negligence of the Roxbury Comprehensive Health Center (the Methadone Addiction Treatment Center), through his therapist, Donna Atherton Fisher, and others. Wade alleges that he had ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with his civil lawsuit. He contends that he wanted to include additional defendants, including state and federal agencies. He also alleges that the law firm advised him that it had everything under control, but Wade decided to contact the Lawyers Referral Service to obtain counsel in the Boston area.

         Wade further alleges that his attorney failed to take any action to collect on the default judgment against Atherton. He alleges that RoxComp closed its office but its successor hired Atherton as a clinician. He voiced his objections to the continuation of her employment. The complaint makes general allegations that his state and federal rights were violated and that his treatment at the clinic amounted to harassment and discrimination, and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated as well.

         Wade further alleges that he filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which found violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), but indicated it would take no punitive measures. He alleges that he was advised that the situation would be remedied. He therefore believed that his counsel would file legal actions against Atherton, based on her forgery and violations of HIPAA. Wade took additional actions by filing criminal complaints against Atherton in both state and federal courts, but no charges were brought.

         Finally, Wade alleges that in 2014, his take-home privileges were revoked for non-compliance with the treatment facility's rules. He contends that this interfered with his religious beliefs and observances. He alleges that this was discriminatory and that the clinic failed to accommodate his religious observances in violation of his civil rights.[5]

         Wade requests that he have an advocate organization or lawyer appointed to pursue his suits against the state and the City of Boston for violation of his treatment and for HIPAA violations. He also seeks monetary damages for emotional distress and for therapy. He further alleges that ...

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