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Maurice Gooden v. Michele Ricci

February 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pisano, District Judge



This matter was opened to the Court by Plaintiff Maurice Gooden filing a Complaint alleging that he was being involuntarily medicated by defendants in violation of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff seeks all appropriate relief.

Now pending before this Court are (1) the Motion [47] of Defendants Marina Moshkovich, M.D., Flora DeFilippo, Ph.D., and Ashwini Neelgund, M.D. to dismiss the Complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, and (2) the Motion [48] of Defendant Michele Ricci to dismiss the Complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Plaintiff has not responded.*fn1

Accordingly, these Motions are now ready for decision. I. DISMISSAL FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court may grant a motion to dismiss if the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Supreme Court set forth the standard for addressing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The Twombly Court stated that, "[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]" Id. at 555 (internal citations omitted); see also Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (stating that standard of review for motion to dismiss does not require courts to accept as true "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences" or "legal conclusion[s] couched as factual allegation[s]." (internal quotation marks omitted)). Therefore, for a complaint to withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact) ..." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and footnote omitted).

More recently, the Supreme Court has emphasized that, when assessing the sufficiency of a civil complaint, a court must distinguish factual contentions and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). A complaint will be dismissed unless it "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). This "plausibility" determination will be "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 2009 WL 2501662, *5 (3d Cir. August 18, 2009) (citations omitted).


A district court should grant summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

No genuinely triable issue of material fact exists when the moving party demonstrates -- based on the submitted evidence, and viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party -- that no rational jury could find in the non-movant's favor. Ambruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994). Thus, the threshold enquiry is whether "there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). In deciding whether triable issues of material fact exist, a court must view the underlying facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Pennsylvania Coal Ass'n v. Babbitt, 63 F.3d 231, 236 (3d Cir. 1995); Hancock Indus. v. Schaeffer, 811 F.2d 225, 231 (3d Cir. 1987).

The moving party bears the burden of showing no genuine issue of material fact, and the non-movant opposes the motion by presenting affirmative evidence to the contrary. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986). Under the Rule, once the moving party has properly supported its showing of no triable issue of fact and of an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citations omitted). See also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 ("By its very terms, this 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 be no genuine issue of material fact.").

What the non-moving party must do is "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); see also Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990) ("The object of [Rule 56(e)] is not to replace conclusory allegations of the complaint ... with conclusory allegations of an affidavit."); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993) ("To raise a genuine issue of material fact, ... the opponent need not match, item for item, each piece of evidence proffered by the movant," but must "exceed[] the ' mere scintilla' threshold and ... offer[] a genuine issue of material fact.").

A movant need not affirmatively disprove the other party's case; he may move on the ground that the non-movant lacks evidence "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Nevertheless, again, it is not sufficient to support a motion with only conclusory assertions that the non-movant has no evidence to prove his case. To the contrary, as Justice White warned, in his concurring opinion in Celotex, "It is the defendant's task to negate, if he can, the claimed basis for the suit." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 328 (Justice White, concurring). Celotex's progeny reflects that sentiment -- that the movant bears the burden of demonstrating the lack of evidence in the record to support the non-movant's claims. See, e.g., Haywood v. Nye, 999 F.Supp. 1451, 1463 (D. Utah 1998); Andrews v. Crump, 984 F.Supp. 393, 402-03 (W.D.N.C. 1996).


Plaintiff Maurice Gooden is confined at New Jersey State Prison. It appears from the record before the Court that he was a pre-trial detainee at the time of the events complained of.

In the Complaint dated October 14, 2008, Plaintiff alleges that in October 2006, he was transferred from Atlantic County Jail to New Jersey State Prison, where he was placed on 23-hour and 45-minute a day lockdown and was subjected to "all types of psychological tests." He alleges that he was diagnosed as "bipolar." He alleges that, since January 19, 2007, he has been forced to take various medications including Geodon, Risperdal Consta, and Haldol. Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered numerous side effects from these medications, including swallowing of his tongue, numbness and burning of his skin, and feeling like his blood is on fire. Plaintiff alleges that multiple doctors and correctional officers hold him down while shots containing these medications are forcibly administered. Plaintiff alleges that his mental condition does not require him to be medicated at all, much less in this manner, with these medications. The remaining medical professionals against whom this claim of unlawful forced medication is asserted are Marina Moshkovich, M.D., Flora DeFilippo, Ph.D., and Ashwini Neelgund, M.D. (hereinafter, the "Medical Defendants").

In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Administrator Michele Ricci makes her presence known in the facility, knows of situations that are not right in the facility, and makes no effort to straighten them.

The Medical Defendants have moved to dismiss, or for summary judgment, on the grounds that the record reflects that the defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs*fn2 and that, under the Due Process Clause, forced medication can be given to inmates as long as proper procedures are followed, as the Medical Defendants assert they were in this instance. In support of their Motion, the Medical Defendants have submitted the affidavits and supporting exhibits*fn3 of (1) Dr. Herbert Kaldany, the Psychiatric Director for the New Jersey Department of Corrections, of (2) Defendant Flora DeFilippo, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist employed by University Correctional Health Care, a division of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Clinical Supervisor in charge of the Outpatient Mental Health Program, and of (3) the Defendant Dr. Marina Moshkovich, M.D., a licensed psychiatrist employed by University Correctional Health Care, who was the psychiatrist in charge of Plaintiff's mental health treatment from 2007 until she became aware of this action in April of 2010. In addition, the Medical Defendants have submitted more than 1300 pages of medical records for in camera review.

Administrator Ricci has moved to dismiss, or for summary judgment, on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and on various grounds related to the merits of the claims, including that Administrator Ricci reasonably relied upon the decisions of health care professionals. Administrator Ricci's Motion is supported by the affidavit of Brenda A. Hutton, an Executive Assistant at New Jersey State Prison, documentation regarding the administrative remedy process, and copies of Plaintiff's Administrative Remedy System Forms.

From the documentation submitted in support of Defendants' motions, which Plaintiff has declined to dispute, it is clear that Plaintiff was, as he stated, transferred to New Jersey State Prison on or about October 26, 2006, where he was immediately evaluated for both physical and mental health.*fn4 He was promptly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and impulse control disorder. However, the treating staff found no need for involuntary medication based upon his behavior at that time.

By November 2006, Plaintiff was screaming day and night, interfering with other inmates' activities and sleep. He had stopped cooperating with his social worker and was refusing medications. Plaintiff's behavior continued to deteriorate and, by January 2007, Plaintiff was becoming more disruptive, was kicking his cell door and being openly hostile to prison staff. Plaintiff began to make threats to staff and to their families. He exhibited extreme anger and was unable to calm himself. He began to throw his food trays and to exhibit repeated sexual behavior, in an apparent effort to shock staff. His treating staff noted in Plaintiff's chart their concerns that he was becoming a danger to himself or others. He was repeatedly counseled about his mental illness and treatment needs, but demonstrated no insight into either.

On January 9, 2007, Ifeoma Anwunah-Okoye, M.D., prescribed Geodon 20 milligram capsules, to be increased over time to 40 milligrams, then 60 milligrams. On January 10, 2007, Plaintiff went to the clinic for a physical examination, but was too agitated to be examined or to have fluids drawn for lab work. On the same date, he placed a blanket over the window of the door to his cell, making observations more difficult. On January 11, 2007, the increase in his medication was moved up due to the severity of his "manic" symptoms. On January 11, 2007, Plaintiff first refused his psychotropic medication, asserting that he "does not take medication." Over the following days, he continued to refuse the medication, asserting that he could not tolerate the side effects.

On January 17, 2007, Dr. Anwunah-Okoye submitted a recommendation that Plaintiff be placed on an involuntary medication protocol, including, subject to TRC approval, Haldol (by injection) and Benadryl (by injection) when Plaintiff refused his oral Geodon. The recommendation was supported by an Involuntary Medication Report detailing Plaintiff's behavior, diagnosis, and treatment history. That recommendation was referred to a Treatment Review Committee ("TRC"), consisting of Executive Assistant Brenda Smith, Dr. Neelgund, and Dr. DeFilippo. While that recommendation was pending, Plaintiff continued to refuse his psychotropic medications and continued to be aggressive, uncooperative, and threatening with staff. On ...

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