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Schramm v. Montage Health

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

July 1, 2019

KELLY SCHRAMM, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTAGE HEALTH, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT RE: DKT. NO. 85

          VIRGINIA K. DEMARCHI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kelly Schramm sues Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (“CHOMP”), its employees, and related entities for the following: (1) violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd et seq.; (2) violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq.; (3) violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended at 29 U.S.C. § 794; (4) violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51 et seq.; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (6) assault and battery; (7) false imprisonment; and (8) violation of the Lanterman Petris Short Act (“LPS Act”), Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 5000 et seq. Dkt. No. 84. Defendants CHOMP, Montage Health, James Montgomery, Kelly Schmidt, Randeep Singh, M.D., and Steven Packer, M.D. move to dismiss claims 5, 6, and 7 in the Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”) for intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and false imprisonment for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] Dkt. No. 85. In addition, defendants move to dismiss claims 5, 6, and 7 on the ground that they are immune from suit under the LPS Act. Finally, defendants move to dismiss all claims against Dr. Packer.

         The Court heard oral argument on defendants' motion on April 9, 2019. Dkt. No. 95. Having considered the parties' briefs and the arguments made at the hearing, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion to dismiss the TAC.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Schramm alleges that in May 2015, she was taken to CHOMP against her wishes for medical attention following a sexual assault, where defendants failed to administer a rape kit or take her rape allegation seriously because they knew she suffered from bipolar disorder. Dkt. No. 84 ¶¶ 34-80. Ms. Schramm describes this behavior as “diagnostic overshadowing, ” in which mentally ill patients receive inadequate or delayed treatment on account of the misattribution of their physical symptoms to their mental illness. Id. ¶¶ 76-79. After she concluded that she would not receive the appropriate medical attention, Ms. Schramm attempted to leave CHOMP to seek care elsewhere. Id. ¶¶ 80-82. She says she was not permitted to leave and was instead forcibly restrained (resulting in additional physical injuries), administered inappropriate and harmful medication, catheterized her without her consent, and eventually formally (and unlawfully) detained pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code § 5150 for three days and two nights. Id. ¶¶ 84-153. Because defendants did not administer a rape kit, Ms. Schramm says she was unable to obtain evidence necessary to pursue criminal charges against her assailant. Id. ¶¶ 160-161.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted ‘tests the legal sufficiency of a claim.'” Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001)). When determining whether a claim has been stated, the Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Reese v. BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., 643 F.3d 681, 690 (9th Cir. 2011). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when it “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendant Steven Packer, M.D. Defendants move to dismiss Dr. Packer because Ms. Schramm has not named him as a defendant under any of the TAC's causes of action. Dkt. No. 85 at 7. Ms. Schramm does not oppose dismissing Dr. Packer. Dkt. No. 87 at 2. The Court therefore grants defendants' motion to dismiss Dr. Packer.

         B. Claim 5: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

         To state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must plausibly allege: “(1) extreme and outrageous conduct by the defendant with the intent to cause, or reckless disregard for the probability of causing, emotional distress; (2) suffering of severe or extreme emotional distress by plaintiff; and (3) plaintiff's emotional distress is actually and proximately the result of defendant's outrageous conduct.” Cline v. Reetz-Laiolo, 329 F.Supp.3d 1000, 1053 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (quoting Conley v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, 85 Cal.App.4th 1126, 1133 (2000)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         1. Defendant James Montgomery

         Defendants argue that the TAC fails to plead sufficient facts supporting a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Mr. Montgomery, a security guard at the hospital. Dkt. No. 85 at 9.

         a. Outrageous conduct

         First, defendants argue that Ms. Schramm does not plead outrageous conduct by Mr. Montgomery. Whether conduct is outrageous is “generally a question of fact for the jury.” Doe v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, No. C10-04700 TEG, 2012 WL 2132398, at *5 (N.D. Cal. June 12, 2012). Defendants acknowledge that a plaintiff's susceptibility to emotional distress due to her physical or mental condition can support a finding of outrageous conduct. Dkt. No. 89 at 5 (citing Symonds v. Mercury Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 225 Cal.App.3d 1458, 1469 (1990)). The relationship between the parties may also affect whether conduct is deemed outrageous. Outrageous “conduct may arise from an abuse by the actor of a position, a relation with the other, which gives him actual or apparent authority over the other, or power to affect his interests.” Bundren v. Superior Court, 145 Cal.App.3d 784, 792 (1983) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 46 (1965)); see also Agrawal v. Johnson, 25 Cal.3d 932, 946 (1979) (“Behavior may be considered outrageous if a defendant (1) abuses a relation or position which gives him power to damage the plaintiff's interest; (2) knows the plaintiff is susceptible to injuries through mental distress; or (3) acts intentionally or unreasonably with the recognition that the acts are likely to result in illness through mental distress.”), disapproved of on other grounds in White v. Ultramar, Inc., 21 Cal.4th 563 (1999). Additionally, battery performed in the course of medical care may be sufficient to support a claim for emotional distress. See, e.g., Nelson v. Gaunt, 125 Cal.App.3d 623, 645 (1981).

         Here, Ms. Schramm says that by the time she arrived at the hospital she had already been injured, was already extremely distressed as a result of a sexual assault, and became further distressed following discriminatory treatment on the basis of her bipolar status when Mr. Montgomery physically prevented her from leaving the hospital. Dkt. No. 84 ¶¶ 46-94. She says Mr. Montgomery then used excessive force to body slam her onto a metal table, causing her further physical injuries, even though her demeanor was peaceful and non-threatening. Id. ¶¶ 91-94, 103.

         Given Ms. Schramm's circumstances, and the relationship between Ms. Schramm as a patient and Mr. Montgomery as a security guard, the allegations of the TAC adequately support her claim that Mr. Montgomery's conduct was outrageous.

         b. Intent

         Second, defendants argue that Ms. Schramm does not adequately plead that Mr. Montgomery intended to cause her emotional distress. Dkt. No. 85 at 9. Ms. Schramm counters that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) permits a plaintiff to generally plead intent, which she argues she has done here. Dkt. No. 86 at 14. Defendants argue that Rule 9(b) applies only to allegations of fraud or mistake, and that Ms. Schramm's bare allegation that Mr. Montgomery intended to cause emotional distress fails to satisfy the Twombly/Iqbal standard. Dkt. No. 87 at 8- 10.

         The Court has not been able to locate any case law within the Ninth Circuit applying Rule 9(b) to general allegations of intent in the context of a claim for emotional distress. Nevertheless, “[a] plaintiff seeking to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress may also demonstrate that the defendant acted with ‘reckless disregard of the probability of causing' severe emotional distress.” Cline, 329 F.Supp.3d at 1053 (quoting Inland Mediation Bd. v. City of Pomona, 158 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1157 (C.D. Cal. 2001)). Such reckless disregard may be shown when a defendant “devote[s] little or no thought to the probable consequences of [her] conduct.” Id. (quoting KOVR-TV, Inc. v. Superior Court, 31 Cal.App.4th 1023, 1032 (1995)).

         Here, Ms. Schramm alleges that Mr. Montgomery laughed at her while preventing her from leaving the hospital, butted her backward with his chest, blocked her from moving around him, and body slammed her onto a metal gurney, breaking her ribs. Dkt. No. 84 ¶¶ 84-94. The Court finds that these allegations are sufficient to support an inference that Mr. Montgomery intended to cause emotional distress or acted with reckless disregard of the probability of causing emotional distress.

         c. Severe or extreme emotional distress

         Third, defendants also contend that Ms. Schramm did not sufficiently plead that she suffered “severe or extreme emotional distress.” Dkt. No. 85 at 10. Ms. Schramm alleges that after she was physically restrained by defendants, including Mr. Montgomery, she experienced “shock and disbelief, ” “had a severe stress reaction and started having . . . an asthma attack, ” and “started yelling for help very loudly.” Dkt. No. 84 ¶¶ 93, 102, 115. The Court finds that these allegations are sufficient to allege severe or extreme emotional distress.

         Accordingly, the Court denies defendants' motion to dismiss the emotional distress claim against Mr. Montgomery.

         2. Defendant Kelly Schmidt

         Defendants' arguments for dismissing the emotional distress claim against Ms. Schmidt, a nurse at the hospital, track those for Mr. Montgomery. They contend that Ms. Schramm failed to plead outrageous conduct by Ms. Schmidt, intent to cause emotional distress, or sufficiently severe emotional distress. Dkt. No. 85 at 10-11.

         a. ...


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