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Johnston v. Prairie View, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 18, 2019

PRAIRIE VIEW, INC., et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Revised[1] First Motion for Leave of Court to Amend Complaint (ECF No. 32). After review of Plaintiff's motion and Defendants Gary Fast, David Hon, and Prairie View, Inc.'s response in opposition (ECF No. 36), the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for the reasons stated below.

         I. Background[2]

         Plaintiff Brendan Johnston filed this action after being involuntarily committed to Larned State Hospital in February 2018. Following traumatic events in his personal life, and after recommendation from emergency department personnel at Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital, Plaintiff voluntarily entered Prairie View, Inc. in Newton, Kansas as an inpatient on January 29, 2018. He was a patient at Prairie View until February 1, 2018 when he was involuntarily transported to Larned State Hospital (“LSH”). Plaintiff was released from LSH after three days of inpatient treatment.

         Plaintiff filed this case against Prairie View and two doctors of psychiatry who provided him care there, Dr. David Hon and Dr. Gary Fast (collectively the “Prairie View Defendants”). In Plaintiff's Complaint, he also names as a defendant Laura Howard, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (“KDADS”) pursuant to her official duties of oversight for state mental health hospitals. Also named as a defendant is Jason R. Lane, Chief Deputy Harvey County Attorney, who initiated an involuntary commitment proceeding regarding Plaintiff at the request of Prairie View staff. Summarily, Plaintiff claims the Defendants worked together to wrongfully transfer him to LSH against his will and in violation of multiple rights. In response, the Prairie View Defendants claim he acted aggressively toward another patient and staff, which necessitated his involuntary transfer.

         Plaintiff asserted 11 claims in his original Complaint, including: (1) violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) under 18 U.S.C. § 1962; (2) deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988; (3) violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983; (4) malicious prosecution; (5) assault; (6) battery; (7) false imprisonment; (8) fraud; (9) defamation; (10) invasion of the right of privacy; and (11) the tort of outrage. (ECF No. 1.)

         All Defendants sought dismissal of multiple claims in three separate motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 17, 19, 23). Defendants generally contend Plaintiff failed to state a claim for which relief could be provided under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for various reasons. In light of the dispositive motions, the undersigned U.S. Magistrate Judge stayed scheduling pending resolution of the motions. (Order, ECF No. 24.) After Plaintiff sought three extensions of time in which to respond to the dispositive motions, he filed his current Motion to Amend. District Judge Carlos Murguia denied the motions to dismiss without prejudice, finding this would “promote efficiency and . . . avoid having the motions to dismiss intertwined with the motions to amend to a degree that complicates the procedural posture of the case unnecessarily.” (Order, ECF No. 33.) Although the Prairie View Defendants asked Judge Murguia to reconsider this opinion (Motion, ECF No. 34), such motion was later denied. (Order, ECF No. 40.) The only pending motion currently remaining in this action is the motion to amend. All related briefing is complete, and the issue of amendment is ripe for decision.

         II. Motion to Amend (ECF No. 32)

         A. Legal Standard for Amendment

         The standard for permitting a party to amend his or her complaint is well established. A party may amend its pleading as a matter of course under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1), either before the responding party answers or within 21 days after service of a responsive pleading. However, in cases such as this, where the time to amend as a matter of course has passed, without the opposing party's consent a party may amend its pleading only by leave of the court under Rule 15(a)(2).

         Rule 15(a)(2) provides leave “shall be freely given when justice so requires, ” and the decision to allow an amendment is within the sound discretion of the court.[3] The court considers a number of factors in deciding whether to allow an amendment, including timeliness, prejudice to the other party, bad faith, and futility of amendment.[4] In exercising its discretion, the court must be “mindful of the spirit of the federal rules of civil procedure to encourage decisions on the merits rather than on mere technicalities.”[5] The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that Rule 15 is intended “to provide litigants ‘the maximum opportunity for each claim to be decided on its merits rather than on procedural niceties, '”[6] especially in the absence of bad faith by an offending party or prejudice to a non-moving party.[7] With these standards in mind, this Court evaluates Plaintiff's motion.

         B. Parties' Positions

         Plaintiff seeks to amend his Complaint to add the following six additional defendants to his current claims:

1) Brent Ide, LCMSW (“Ide”), who was also an employee of Prairie View and screened Plaintiff for an emergency medical condition;
2) Douglas McNett (“McNett”), who was Pawnee County Attorney and initiated a complaint for emergency involuntary commitment of Plaintiff in Pawnee County (in addition to the complaint filed in Harvey County referenced in the initial Complaint);
3) Dr. Michael Burke, M.D., Ph.D (“Dr. Burke”), the Chief Medical Officer at LSH who authorized Plaintiff's transfer; 4) Stacy Parr (‘Parr”), the Chief Financial Officer and employee of LSH who allegedly collected money for services provided to Plaintiff which he contends were neither necessary nor appropriate;
4) Donald Sapp, an attorney who accepted appointment as Plaintiff's lawyer in the Harvey County care and treatment case, and who Plaintiff contends permitted his electronic signature to be applied to a dismissal of the case after Plaintiff's own counsel entered an appearance; and
5) Heather Helvie, an attorney appointed to Plaintiff in the Pawnee County care and treatment case.

(Proposed Am. Compl., ECF No. 32-1.)

         Plaintiff also seeks to add a claim against Prairie View under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, for “dumping” Plaintiff on LSH before stabilizing his condition. Plaintiff asserts his proposed Amended ...

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