United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
JAMES N. HOLLINGER Plaintiff,
READING HEALTH SYSTEM, et al., Defendants.
days into his stay as a patient at Reading Hospital, James
Hollinger slapped Lydia Davis (one of the hospital's
nurses) in the face. Plaintiff was discharged into police
custody and charged with assault. He now sues the hospital
and doctors that treated him.
claims his discharge violated the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (RA)
because he is an alcoholic and has related health conditions.
While plaintiff's allegations certainly highlight the
despondency of alcoholism, they do not present a cognizable
claim under either the ADA or RA. Defendant filed a motion to
dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint. I will
grant the motion.
September 9, 2013, the plaintiff, James Hollinger, was
admitted to Reading Hospital and Medical Center as a result
of alcohol-related seizures. (Doc. No. 36 ¶¶ 15-
20). While at the hospital, plaintiff underwent a CT scan of
his brain, which revealed atrophy and ischemia. (Id.
¶¶ 22-23). The same day he was admitted, plaintiff
began screaming obscenities at hospital staff and refusing to
answer their questions. (Id. ¶ 25).
concluded that plaintiff's seizures were due to alcohol
withdrawal. (Id. ¶ 30). After being at the
hospital several days and displaying “ongoing
agitation, ” the hospital started plaintiff on its
alcohol withdrawal protocol. (Id. ¶ 32).
Doctors increased plaintiff's dose of Ativan in an
attempt to alleviate his agitation. (Id. ¶ 33).
Throughout his stay, plaintiff showed signs of mental
deterioration and memory loss. (Id. ¶¶
37-40). He was unsteady on his feet and fell several times.
(Id. ¶¶ 40-43).
staff at the hospital recommended that plaintiff be provided
one-on-one nursing care. (Id. ¶ 44).
Consequently, hospital staff placed alarms on his bed so that
they would know if he moved. (Id.) A week into
plaintiff's hospital stay, staff continued to note
plaintiff's confusion. (Id. ¶ 46).
Plaintiff began trying to get out of his bed and became
“very impulsive.” (Id. ¶ 47). His
confusion and disorientation at this time led a social worker
to conclude that he was not ready to be discharged.
(Id. ¶¶ 51-55). The social worker
recommended appointing a legal guardian for plaintiff and
placing him in long-term nursing care. (Id.
midnight on September 20, 2013, plaintiff began trying to hit
staff members. (Id. ¶ 62). A hospital
psychiatrist recommended treating plaintiff with Haldol (an
antipsychotic drug) because of his aggression toward staff.
(Id. ¶ 65). After continually attempting to hit
staff members, plaintiff was eventually successful when he
slapped Lydia Davis, a hospital nurse, in the face.
(Id. ¶ 67).
result of plaintiff slapping Ms. Davis in the face, hospital
staff called the West Reading Police Department.
(Id. ¶ 71). Based on their investigation, the
police determined that plaintiff could be charged with
assault. (Id. ¶ 72). The hospital requested
that plaintiff be evaluated for discharge and taken into
police custody. (Id. ¶ 73).
Robert Jenkins, M.D., evaluated plaintiff for discharge.
(Id. ¶ 91). Dr. Jenkins reviewed
plaintiff's recent progress notes, spoke with Dr. Sachin
Shrestha, M.D., and evaluated plaintiff personally.
(Id.) Based on his observations, Dr. Jenkins
concluded that plaintiff's delirium had improved but that
he continued to be “at high risk of violent
behavior.” (Id. ¶ 94). Dr. Jenkins opined
that plaintiff was capable of making his own medical
decisions. (Id. ¶ 95). Dr. Shrestha, who had
also treated plaintiff, agreed with these observations.
(Id. ¶ 103). Plaintiff was discharged the
evening of September 20, 2013. (Id. ¶ 102).
hospital gave plaintiff discharge instructions, directing him
to follow-up with his primary care physician and continue
taking Ativan. (Id. ¶¶ 111-12). After
arriving at the Berks County Prison, plaintiff was prescribed
Ativan and placed in suicide restraints. (Id.
¶¶ 119-121). He was eventually charged with
aggravated assault for hitting Ms. Davis and spent over 200
days in the prison, where he continued to suffer from alcohol
withdrawal symptoms. (Id. ¶¶ 114-124).
plaintiff was released from the Berks County Prison, he
continued to experience more seizures and other health
issues. (Id. ¶¶ 132-33). Plaintiff
currently lives in Reading, Pennsylvania. (Id.
¶ 134). The closest emergency room to plaintiff is
Reading Hospital. (Id.) There is a different nearby
emergency room also located in Berks County. (Id.
September 21, 2015, plaintiff filed a complaint against
defendant Reading Health System and some of the doctors who
treated him while at the hospital. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff
subsequently amended this complaint. (Doc. No. 15). He
brought claims under the Emergency Medical Treatment and
Active Labor Act (EMTALA), the ADA, and § 504 of the RA.
He also brought a negligence claim under Pennsylvania law.
filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, which I
granted in part and denied in part. See Hollinger v.
Reading Health Sys., Civ. A. No. 15-5249, 2016 WL
3762987 (E.D. Pa. July 14, 2016) (dismissing EMTALA claims
with prejudice, ADA and RA claims without prejudice, and
denying motion to dismiss negligence claim). I dismissed the
ADA claim because plaintiff failed to establish standing.
Id. at *11. I dismissed the RA claim because it
sounded in medical negligence rather than discrimination.
Id. at *13.
filed a second amended complaint in which he reasserts the
ADA, RA, and negligence claims. Defendants filed a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating
that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief
can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v.
United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007),
the United States Supreme Court recognized that “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. Subsequently, in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court defined a
two-pronged approach to a court's review of a motion to
dismiss. “First, the tenet that a court must accept as
true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. Thus,
while “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure
from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era
. . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a
plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”
Id. at 678-79.
the Supreme Court emphasized that “only a complaint
that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to
dismiss.” Id. at 679. “Determining
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will,
as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id. A complaint
does not show an entitlement to relief when the well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct. Id.; see also
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232-34 (3d
Cir. 2008) (holding that: (1) factual allegations of
complaint must provide notice to defendant; (2) complaint
must allege facts suggestive of the proscribed conduct; and
(3) the complaint's “‘factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.'” (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555).
basic tenets of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review have
remained static. Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch.
Dist., No. Civ. A. 08-626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D.
Pa. July 15, 2008). The general rules of pleading still
require only a short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain
detailed factual allegations. Phillips, 515 F.3d at
233. Further, the court must “accept all factual
allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Buck v.
Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir.
2006). Finally, the court must “determine whether,
under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff
may be entitled to relief.” Pinkerton v. Roche
Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).
seeks relief pursuant to Title III of the ADA and § 504
of the RA. Under Title III of the ADA, plaintiff seeks purely
injunctive relief. Under the RA, he seeks injunctive and
to plaintiff, defendants violated Title III of the ADA by
discharging him prematurely due to his aggression toward
staff, which was a manifestation of his alcoholism. Plaintiff
also alleges defendants had a custom or practice of
“referring all episodes of patient malfeasance and
physical contact with staff to police, regardless of whether
a given patient presents a threat to safety.” (Doc. No.
36 ¶ 158).
move to dismiss plaintiff's ADA claim on two bases.
First, they argue plaintiff does not have standing. Second,
they argue plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief
under the ADA.
judicial power conferred to federal courts by Article III of
the United States Constitution only extends to
“cases” or “controversies.” Lujan
v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). This
doctrine, known as standing, has three distinct requirements.
Id. at 560-61. To satisfy Article III's standing
requirements, a plaintiff must demonstrate:
(1) it has suffered an ‘injury in fact' that is (a)
concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not