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Van Orden v. Schaefer

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

October 17, 2014

JOHN VAN ORDEN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
KEITH SCHAEFER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, District Judge.

This putative class action is before the Court on Defendants' motions (Docs. No. 273 & 330) to dismiss Plaintiffs' Fifth Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The named Plaintiffs are individuals who are, or were, civillycommitted residents of the Missouri Department of Mental Health's ("Department") Sexual Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services ("SORTS")[1] facilities in Farmington and Fulton, Missouri. Plaintiffs commenced this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on June 22, 2009, asserting numerous violations of the United States and Missouri constitutions based on the alleged lack of adequate care and treatment provided to them. They also challenge the constitutionality of Missouri's statutory scheme that provides for reimbursement from Plaintiffs and/or their families or estates for the costs of Plaintiffs' care and treatment. Defendants are state officials responsible for various aspects of SORTS, all sued solely in their official capacities.[2] For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions to dismiss shall be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The Court previously granted in part and denied in part a nearly identical motion to dismiss brought by Defendants in response to Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 192.) Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 117) claimed that the statutory reimbursement scheme, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 630.205 et seq., and Defendants' policies and practices in accordance therewith, violated the "forfeiture of estate" clause of the Missouri constitution; and the bill of attainder, cruel and unusual punishment, excessive fine, equal protection, procedural due process, substantive due process, unreasonable seizure of property, and ex post facto clauses of the federal and state constitutions. Plaintiffs further claimed that the inadequate care and treatment provided to them violated their substantive due process rights, and rendered the reimbursement scheme even more objectionable, as there was no consideration for the amounts that were statutorily collectable, turning Plaintiffs' civil commitment into state-imposed punishment. Plaintiffs brought their claims on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, and sought as relief a declaration that the care and treatment provided by SORTS, and the statutory reimbursement scheme for such treatment, were unconstitutional; an order enjoining Defendants from seeking to obtain payment for the costs of Plaintiffs' care and treatment and requiring Defendants to improve the level of care and treatment provided in certain specific ways, such as by hiring trained psychologists and experts in sex offender treatment; and an order returning all property seized from Plaintiffs or their estates or families pursuant to the statutory reimbursement scheme.

In ruling on Defendants' motion to dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint, the Court rejected the following procedural challenges raised by Defendants: that Plaintiffs' claims were barred by Missouri's five-year statute of limitations for actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; that Plaintiffs' challenge to the statutory reimbursement scheme was not ripe because Plaintiffs did not allege that Defendants had actually enforced any claim for reimbursement; that to the extent Plaintiffs' request for return of property seized constituted a claim for damages, such claim was barred by the doctrines of qualified immunity and Eleventh Amendment immunity; and that Plaintiff David Brown lacked standing because he no longer resided at SORTS. (Doc. No. 192 at 5.) The Court held that because Plaintiffs alleged injury on a continuing basis, their claims were not barred by the statute of limitations. ( Id. at 7, 9.) The Court likewise found that Defendants' ripeness argument was without merit because "Plaintiffs have alleged that each of them have been pressured, or at least asked, to sign documents that will enable Defendants to collect payments pursuant to the statutes at issue here." ( Id. at 9.) Further, the Court rejected Defendants' qualified immunity defense as unavailable to governmental employees sued solely in their official capacities, as here. ( Id. at 5 n.3.) Finally, the Court held that standing is determined at the time the lawsuit was filed, and Plaintiff Brown's confinement at SORTS at that time gave him standing to pursue his claims. ( Id. at 8.)

Regarding Defendants' substantive arguments that Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint failed to state a claim based on inadequate treatment and care, the Court held that Plaintiffs' claims that the treatment provided to them, or lack thereof, violated their substantive due process rights was a "fact-intensive" claim, which required further development of the record and was therefore not subject to dismissal at that time. (Doc. No. 192 at 7.) However, the Court found that "Plaintiffs' claim that the level of care and treatment provided constitutes punishment'" was "subject to dismissal for lack of factual support for such a claim." ( Id. at 7-8.)

Regarding Plaintiffs' claims that the statutory reimbursement scheme was unlawful, the Court agreed that Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint failed to state a claim under the "forfeiture of estate" clause of the Missouri constitution and the excessive fine clauses of the federal and state constitutions because these clauses apply only to actions by the government to inflict punishment for criminal offenses. (Doc. No. 192 at 10.) Likewise, the Court held that the reimbursement scheme did not implicate the bill of attainder, ex post facto, unlawful search and seizure, or cruel and unusual punishment clauses of the federal or state constitutions. ( Id. at 10-11.) The Court further held that Plaintiffs' procedural due process challenge to the statutory reimbursement scheme failed as a matter of law because of the pre-deprivation notice and post-deprivation judicial review procedures available under the relevant statute, as to both the decision to seek reimbursement and the amount sought. ( Id. at 11.) However, the Court permitted Plaintiffs' substantive due process and equal protection claims regarding the reimbursement scheme to go forward, as these claims were "best determined upon further factual development of the record." ( Id. at 11-12.)

Following the Court's ruling, the only claims remaining in Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint were (1) that Defendants' lack of adequate care and treatment violated Plaintiffs' substantive due process rights, and (2) that Missouri's statutory reimbursement scheme as applied to Plaintiffs violated their substantive due process and equal protection rights. The Court thereafter granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification, certifying two classes: (1) a "Treatment Class" consisting of persons who are or will be residents of SORTS during the pendency of this action, and who seek relief related to the treatment or lack of treatment provided to SORTS residents; and (2) a "Charging Class" consisting of persons who are or will be residents of SORTS during the pendency of this action, and former SORTS residents, who have been or will be billed or charged for their care, treatment, room, or board at SORTS. (Doc. No. 197.)

On February 6, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file a fifth amended complaint. (Doc. No. 255.) Plaintiffs asserted that "the heart of the claims" had not been changed, but Plaintiffs sought to plead new facts gathered from Defendants' internal documents; to add a new, alternative claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; and to add and drop certain parties. ( Id. ) Defendants did not oppose Plaintiffs' motion for leave, and the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion. (Doc. No. 257.)

Plaintiffs filed their Fifth Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 258) on February 19, 2014. Plaintiffs continue to assert the claims that survived the last motion to dismiss, namely, that Defendants' inadequate care and treatment of Plaintiffs violates Plaintiffs' substantive due process rights, and that the statutory reimbursement scheme violates Plaintiffs' substantive due process and equal protection rights. Plaintiffs also replead some of their dismissed claims, namely, that the statutory reimbursement scheme violates Plaintiffs' rights under the cruel and unusual punishment, procedural due process, unreasonable seizure of property, and ex post facto clauses of the federal and state constitutions. ( Id. at 74-83.) Plaintiffs do not replead the dismissed "forfeiture of estate, " bill of attainder, or excessive fines claims. But Plaintiffs add claims that the inadequate care and treatment they received constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and double jeopardy in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and, alternatively, that the care and treatment provided at SORTS, as compared to other Department programs, violates the ADA.

Defendants brought the instant motion to dismiss on April 22, 2014, and newlynamed Defendant George Lombardi filed a separate motion to dismiss on August 25, 2014, adopting all of the arguments of his co-Defendants. (Docs. No. 273 & 330.) Defendants raise nearly identical arguments as they raised in response to Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint. Specifically, Defendants reassert each of the procedural bars they raised in their last motion to dismiss, including the statute of limitations, ripeness doctrine, qualified immunity, and Eleventh Amendment immunity. And Defendants again challenge the standing of one Plaintiff, this time Macon Baker, whom Defendants allege was released from SORTS and was not charged any money for any treatment received at SORTS.

Defendants also reassert many of their substantive challenges to Plaintiffs' claims. Specifically, Defendants maintain that Plaintiffs' allegations relating to the statutory reimbursement scheme fail to state an equal protection claim because Plaintiffs are not treated differently than similarly situated individuals, and the scheme is rationally related to a legitimate state interest; fail to state a substantive due process claim because no "fundamental right" is implicated; fail to state a procedural due process claim because the statute provides adequate notice and judicial review procedures; fail to state an unreasonable seizure of property claim because Plaintiffs do not allege Defendants actually seized any property from Plaintiffs; and fail to state an ex post facto claim because the reimbursement statute is civil, not penal.

Defendants also argue that the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment does not apply to Plaintiffs' care and treatment or reimbursement claims because Plaintiffs are civilly, rather than criminally, committed.

Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' new and alternative ADA claim fails as a matter of law because the ADA only requires a reasonable accommodation for a plaintiff's disability, and "[a] reasonable accommodation has been given to Plaintiffs in the form ...


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