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Scott v. Plante

October 18, 1982

ALLEN BODINE SCOTT, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN, MICHAEL J. WEINTRAUB
v.
DR. INGRE RUDOLPH PLANTE; COMMISSIONER OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES, ANN KLEIN; MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF NEW JERSEY STATE HOSPITAL, NEW JERSEY MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSIONER, DR. MARTIN WEINBERG; STATE OF NEW JERSEY, BRENDAN T. BYRNE, GOVERNOR; SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY, RICHARD J. HUGHES, CHIEF JUSTICE (D.C. CIVIL NO. 73-1052)



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY.

Gibbons, Weis and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Gibbons

Opinion ON REMAND FROM THE SUPREME COURT

GIBBONS, Circuit Judge.

This case is before us on remand from the Supreme Court. It involves a suit by Allen Bodine Scott, an inmate of the Vroom Building at Trenton State Psychiatric Hospital, for declaratory, injunctive, and habeas corpus relief, and for money damages for violation of his rights under federal and state law resulting from the conditions of his confinement. The parties, the procedural history of the case, and the outcome in the district court are set forth fully in our prior decisions and need not be repeated.*fn1 We held that the judgment in the district court in defendants' favor on Scott's claims for prospective relief should be vacated, and the case remanded for consideration of specific equitable relief in light of Scott's right to be given adequate treatment and to have his assignment to some other less restrictive setting within Trenton Psychiatric Hospital carefully considered. With respect to the liability of the individual defendants for compensatory and punitive damages, we vacated the judgment and remanded with directions to grant a new trial in light of our opinion. The defendants petitioned for certiorari, and on June 28, 1982 the Supreme Court, 458 U.S. 1101, 102 S. Ct. 3474, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1362, without opinion, granted certiorari, vacated our judgment, and remanded to this court for further consideration in light of Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 102 S. Ct. 2452, 73 L. Ed. 2d 28 (1982). We asked the parties to comment on the significance of Youngberg v. Romeo, and having considered those comments we conclude that the judgment in favor of the defendants on Scott's claims for prospective relief must be vacated, and the case remanded for consideration of specific equitable relief in light of Scott's right, recognized in Youngberg v. Romeo, to be given adequate treatment. We conclude, moreover, that Youngberg v. Romeo does not eliminate the necessity for further consideration of Scott's claim that he should be assigned to some less restrictive setting within the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. Finally, we conclude that a new trial on Scott's claim for compensatory and punitive damages is still required.

I.

Scott asserts a right to adequate treatment, a right to reasonable care, and a right to be free from unreasonably restrictive confinement. We consider separately the effect of Youngberg v. Romeo on each of these claims.

A. Right to Adequate Treatment

In our last opinion we approved the trial court's charge to the jury that Scott had a right, secured by the fourteenth amendment, to adequate treatment. In doing so, we relied on this court's en banc decision in Romeo v. Youngberg, 644 F.2d 147, 149 (3d Cir. 1980). The Supreme Court's opinion in Youngberg v. Romeo does not suggest that our approval of the court's charge was incorrect. The Supreme Court majority noted that a "court properly may start with the generalization that there is a right to minimally adequate training," i.e. "training which is reasonable in light of identifiable liberty interests and the circumstances of the case." 102 S. Ct. at 2460 n.25. The opinion of the Court also stressed the significance of professional judgment with respect to a program of treatment. 102 S. Ct. at 2461-62. The evidence in the record is such that a jury could find that defendants failed to treat Scott on a regular basis and that the minimal treatment which was occasionally afforded was a substantial departure from accepted professional standards. Thus it would be clearly inappropriate to direct the entry of a judgment in favor of the defendants at the appellate level on Scott's claim for money damages for failure to provide adequate treatment. There is on this record a jury question as to compliance with the treatment standards approved in Youngberg v. Romeo. Moreover, the court in a new trial, will undoubtedly be requested, in formulating a charge to the jury, to take into account the effects of N.J.S.A. 30:4-24.1 which provides:

Every individual who is mentally ill shall be entitled to fundamental civil rights and to medical care and other professional services in accordance with accepted standards. . . .

See State v. Carter, 64 N.J. 382, 395, 316 A.2d 449, 455 (1974); Matter of DJM, 158 N.J. Super. 497, 500, 386 A.2d 870, 872 (App.Div. 1978); In re D.D., 118 N.J. Super. 1, 6, 285 A.2d 283, 286 (App. Div. 1971); State in the Interest of RGW, 145 N.J. Super. 167, 178-81, 366 A.2d 1375, 1381-82 (Passaic Cty. Juv. & Dom. Rel. Ct. 1976). Reliance on the New Jersey statutory right to treatment may be appropriate either because that right is entitled to protection under the fourteenth amendment, see Youngberg v. Romeo, 102 S. Ct. at 2458 n. 19, or because such a claim should properly be adjudicated in the exercise of the court's pendant jurisdiction over state claims, in order to avoid adjudication of constitutional law issues. Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 39 L. Ed. 2d 577, 94 S. Ct. 1372 (1974); Siler v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co., 213 U.S. 175, 53 L. Ed. 753, 29 S. Ct. 451 (1909).

Finally we note that Youngberg v. Romeo involved only a claim for money damages for past infringements of the right to treatment which is a component of fourteenth amendment personal liberty. The Court's decision does not inform at all as to the appropriate reach of injunctive relief for the protection of liberty interests established by state law, and the holding is not necessarily dispositive of the scope of prospective relief for the protection of the fourteenth amendment liberty interests which it recognized. Obviously the problem of hindsight interference with decisions made by hard-pressed professional staff members of state mental institutions is a more serious one than that of assisting them in directing prospective injunctive relief against appropriate state officials. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 667, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1974).

B. Right to Reasonable Care

Scott also contends that the imposition on him of subhuman living conditions violated due process. The trial court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to submit Scott's damage claim to the jury on that theory. The court, consistent with Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979), charged that Scott could recover if the conditions in the Vroom Building were punitive in nature and had no reasonable relationship to the ...


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