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Robinson v. Mawyer

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

February 21, 2019

DAVID W. MAWYER, et al., Respondents.


          Hon. Michael F. Urbanski, Chief United States District Judge.

         William Robinson, currently being held at the Prince William - Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center, complains that his constitutional rights and rights under Virginia state law were violated while he was a patient at Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia (WSH). Proceeding pro se, Robinson filed this lawsuit seeking relief via 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants Mary Clare Smith, M.D., David W. Mawyer, Eugene Simopolous, M.D., Brian Kiernan, Sgt. Kaleigh Bishop, Sgt. Matthew Mercer, Sgt. Andrew Wilhelm, Sgt. Brad Carter, and Trent Humphries, all employees of WSH, have filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 33. Defendants Douglas Brydge, a Virginia State Trooper, and Liz Garvey, an adult protective services worker employed by Shenandoah Valley Social Services, filed separate motions to dismiss. ECF Nos. 37, 41. Robinson responded to the motions to dismiss, making this matter ripe for disposition.

         Also pending is Robinson's motion to amend his complaint to allege that all defendants acted under color of state law in their individual and official capacities. He also seeks to add unknown staff members whom he alleges were directly in charge of security in his unit. ECF No. 45. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to amend is GRANTED; the motions to dismiss are GRANTED and Robinson's lawsuit is DISMISSED in its entirety for failure to state a claim.


         I. Factual Allegations

         The following facts, which are taken from Robinson's complaint, the motions to dismiss, his response to the motions to dismiss, and all the attached exhibits, are accepted as true for purposes of the defendants' motions.[1] On April 21, 2017 Robinson was admitted to WSH via an order for a psychological evaluation by the Prince William County Circuit Court. ECF No. 34-1 at 1. He was facing charges of abduction, attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, failure to appear, grand larceny, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. ECF No. 34-3 at 1.

         In the evening of May 5, 2017, Robinson was lying in his room trying to sleep when a female patient entered his room and climbed into his bed. He got up and told her to leave but she would not. He did not know what to do and did not want to get in trouble so he left his room. When he returned, she was still in his bed. He told her to leave and snatched the covers off the bed. She reached up and grabbed his sweat shirt and pulled him down on top of her, locked her legs around him, and told him that if they would have sex, she would leave. Because he wanted her to leave and did not want to get in trouble, they had sex. The woman still would not leave his room, so he left again and when he returned to the room, she finally left the room and he locked the door. She returned and began knocking on the locked door and telling him to let her in, but he refused. At that point the staff saw her and removed her from in front of his room. ECF No. 1 at 5. The next day, the same female patient pinned Robinson with her body in the phone booth area and staff had to remove her.

         On May 7, 2017, Robinson told two members of his treatment team what had happened and told the entire team the next day. ECF No. 1 at 3, 5, 6. His team was aware of what had happened and told him that members of the security staff were going to talk to him. On May 9, 2017 he told security staff members what had happened and that the female patient continued to harass him, including an episode earlier that day when she had trapped him in the television room and staff had to remove her. ECF No. 1 at 3. On May 12, 2017 staff moved Robinson to another area of the hospital, which he described as "harsher." Id. When he was moved to the new unit he fought with the administration over education, food, water, and safety and was forced to do things that "got [him] assaulted." He also alleges that his treatment team stopped seeing him and providing him with any type of therapy. Id.

         An investigation was started based on an order by defendant Dr. Simopolous. ECF No. 40-1 at 1-2. According to an investigation report, defendant Humphries, the facility investigator, directed defendant Wilhelm to interview Robinson and also to review video of the entrance of Robinson's room on the evening of May 5, 2017. Video files were made of footage taken from 9:24 to 9:26 p.m., 10:22 to 10:39 p.m., and 12:38 a.m. to 12:42 a.m. Video showed the female patient entering Robinson's room, and showed Robinson leaving his room several times while she remained inside. The last video file showed two staff members redirecting the woman away from Robinson's bedroom door. There was no video recorded inside the room. ECF No. 40-1 at 3. Wilhelm noted that during these time periods staff appeared to be conducting their thirty-minute checks. Id.

         Robinson described to Wilhelm die same incident he describes here. In addition, Robinson told Wilhelm that the female patient was telling other patients that Robinson was the father of her three children and that she followed him throughout the unit, touching him, grabbing him, and pinning him against the patient phones. Id. at 2. He further told Wilhelm that he was in fear and the situation was affecting his anxiety and depression. Id.

         Wilhelm noted that Robinson had reported the incident to students who passed it on to Dr. Simopoulos, who ordered the investigation. The facility director, defendant Mawyer, asked defendant Mercer to conduct an investigation, which led to Wilhelm conducting the interview and pulling the video footage. Id. at 2-3.

         Another member of the security staff, defendant Carter, interviewed the female patient. Her thoughts were disorganized, but when asked directly if she went into someone else's bedroom on the night of May 5, 2017, she said that she did. She identified the patient as 'William" and said he had kept telling her to go to his room, so she did. She said he pulled his pants down and said, "I don't have all day." He asked her to turn around and when she would not, they both left the room, but later returned. When asked if anything physical happened in the bedroom, she said they had intercourse and she knew it was wrong. When asked if both parties were agreeable to the intercourse, she said, "Yea, it was." ECF No. 40-1 at 3-4.

         At some point, another member of the security staff, defendant Bishop, spoke with Robinson, who told her that his statement had not changed, but that the female patient was still bothering him. Bishop also noted that she spoke to Dr. Simopoulos about die female patient's competency to consent to sexual intercourse, but he said the patient had not been at the hospital long enough for him to provide an appropriate answer. Id. at 4.

         Based on the interviews with Robinson and the female patient, director Mawyer decided to call the state police to further investigate. Defendant state trooper Brydge went to the hospital where he spoke with Dr. Simopoulos and told him about Robinson's pending criminal charges. Other defendant staff members, including Mawyer, Humphries, Dr. Kiernan, and adult protective services employee Liz Garvey, were told about the charges. Dr. Kiernan advised that WSH was aware of the charges, and that the hospital would move Robinson to another unit because of recent events and also because of the violent nature of the charges against him. ECF No. 40-1 at 5.

         Trooper Brydge advised that the allegations of sexual assault were a "he said she said" situation and that he was not going to investigate further because the parties had been interviewed by hospital staff. All parties agreed with his conclusion. Id. Humphries reported that he and Garvey concluded that Robinson's allegations against the female patient were unfounded. Id. He added an "Administrative Issue" that sergeants Wilhelm, Mercer, and Carter needed to remember to always follow Hospital Instruction #4040 when confronted with an allegation of sexual misconduct. Id. at 5-6.

         At some point after the incident, the Disability Law Center of Virginia mailed a Human Rights Complaint to defendant Mary Clare Smith, the current facilities director at WSH.[2] The complaint alleged that Robinson was pursuing relief through the Human Rights Complaint process because he was denied due process when the hospital failed to conduct an investigation into his alleged sexual assault. ECF No. 40-1 at 7. The complaint alleged that the hospital was supposed to initiate an impartial investigation into, or resolution of, the complaint as soon as possible, but no later than the next business day. Instead, the hospital waited two days to begin the investigation and did not initiate a "201" investigation at all. Id.

         As relief, Robinson asked for an apology for WSH's failure to protect him and provide him with a safe environment, for not having followed WSH's policies and procedures, and for not having conducted an internal investigation of his complaint. He also asked that staff be retrained on "manning their post[s] and following procedures when incidents are reported." Finally, since he had been readmitted to WSH, he asked not to be assigned to groups with or' in close proximity to the female patient. Id. at 8.

         Smith responded to the letter on December 7, 2017. She said that the hospital took action the same day Robinson reported the incident by interviewing him and placing the female patient on increased monitoring. She acknowledged that WSH did not take steps to address his discomfort and that they could have done so by transferring him to a different unit in a more timely manner. Id. at 9. Smith also reported that the hospital completed an internal review of his complaint, including a review of staff performance of assigned duties, and determined that they were carried out as required. To increase protection of all clients at WSH, steps were taken to ensure that bedroom doors were closed while clients were sleeping at night and the doors were then locked by staff so that the rooms could not be accessed by anyone other than staff. Finally, Smith noted that when Robinson was readmitted to WSH, he was housed in a separate area and floor from the female patient. Id.

         The Disability Law Center of Virginia responded to Smith and asserted that the hospital was out of compliance with the human rights regulations because it did not investigate the assault and respond to Robinson within twenty-four hours of his complaint and never conducted a "DI 201" investigation. In addition, Robinson continued to ask for an acknowledgment of WSH's alleged wrong-doing and an apology. Finally, he asked to have his human rights complaint treated in accordance with 12VAC35-115-175. Id. at 10. There is no response from WSH to the second letter in the file.

         II. Causes of Action

         Robinson makes the following claims: (1) The sexual assault in his room, the assault by the patient telephones, and the fact that he was forced to stay around the female patient from May 7, to May 12, 2017 constituted negligence and mental and emotional and abuse on the part of the WSH defendants; (2) The investigation, ordered by defendant Humphries and conducted by defendants Wilhelm, Carter, Mercer, and Bishop, was done poorly, which also was negligent; (3) The failure to remove the female patient immediately was negligent and abusive; (4) After he was moved to another unit, his new treatment team stopped all treatment, which he alleges was negligent and retaliatory; (5) Defendants Humphries and Garvey failed to talk to him or offer him counseling which was negligent; (6) The security officer defendants were negligent for failing to protect him while he was at WSH; (7) Defendant Humphries was negligent for failing to follow investigative policies resulting in neglect and abuse; (8) Defendants Smith and Mawyer were negligent for allowing staff to make poor decisions which resulted in Robinson being neglected, abused, and assaulted from May 5, 2017 through May 31, 2017; (9) Defendants Smith and Humphries retaliated against Robinson by having him declared competent and discharged on May 31, 2017; (10) Defendant Smith was negligent for not accepting responsibility for the actions of WSH employees; (11) Staff that was on duty on the night of May 7, 2017 failed to protect him from assault; (12) Staff on duty after May 9, 2017 failed to protect him from the female patient from that date until May 12, 2017; and (13) Defendants Brydge, Humphries, Kiernan, Garvey, and Simopoulos conspired to deny Robinson due process by not allowing him to press charges and have his allegations heard by the court system. In a motion to amend filed on October 5, 2018, Robinson alleged that all defendants acted under color of state law and acted in their individual and official capacities. He also asked to name as defendants the unknown staff persons in his unit who were on duty at the times he as assaulted and harassed. Robinson seeks $5, 000, 000 in damages.

         In their motions to dismiss, the WSH defendants and defendant Brydge argue that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Robinson's claims, that Robinson has failed to state a claim for relief, and that they are entitled to qualified immunity. Defendant Garvey argues in her motion to dismiss that Robinson has failed to state a claim against her.


         I. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

         The WSH defendants and defendant Brydge move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.RCiv.P. 12(b)(1), alleging that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. They argue that because Robinson claims that many of the defendants' actions were negligent or abusive, that he is alleging only state law causes of action and has failed to allege violation of a constitutional right. In addition, they argue that to the extent Robinson is bringing a due process claim based on any of his allegations, he is attempting to inflate state law tort causes of action into constitutional claims via misuse of the Fourteenth Amendment. They cite Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 701 (1976), for ...

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