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ROGERS v. PROVIDENT HOSPITAL

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E. D


May 13, 1965

JAMES W. ROGERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PROVIDENT HOSPITAL, A/K/A PROVIDENT HOSPITAL & TRAINING SCHOOL ASSOCIATION, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, ERVIN MOORE AND FRANK GENTILE, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Parsons, District Judge.

  This is an action against a private hospital and two Chicago police officers brought under the Federal Civil Rights Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, § 1985, § 1986; and Amendments IV, VI and XIV to the United States Constitution,*fn1 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Diversity of citizenship is not alleged. The amount in controversy exceeds $10,000.00 exclusive of interest and costs. Defendant Provident Hospital has moved to dismiss the action against it (Count I) for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Taking as true the allegations of the complaint, as they must be on ruling upon defendant's motion to dismiss, Cooper v. Pate, 378 U.S. 546, 84 S.Ct. 1733, 12 L.Ed.2d 1030 (1964), it appears that plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident near 43rd Street and Drexel Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, on August 15, 1964. He was transferred to Provident Hospital by a Chicago Police Department squadrol, where he requested, and was refused, immediate medical care by hospital employees. Plaintiff offered to pay the reasonable charges for medical services to be rendered him for his injuries, but was turned down. As a direct consequence of such refusal, plaintiff sustained serious and permanent injuries.

Plaintiff further alleges that employees of the hospital called and caused the two defendant Chicago police officers, acting on behalf of the City of Chicago, to cause plaintiff at the hospital to be wrongfully assaulted about his face and body, and to have plaintiff placed in handcuffs and falsely and wrongly imprisoned, and that they prevented plaintiff from going about his normal business and obtaining proper medical care; all without cause or provocation.

Thereafter, said police officers forcefully and without cause kept plaintiff in handcuffs and removed him from the hospital to a nearby police station, where he was placed in jail for a number of hours, and later released on bond. Plaintiff seeks $175,000.00 in damages from Provident Hospital.

CAUSE OF ACTION BASED UPON THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT

Where a claim is alleged to "arise under" the Constitution and Amendments thereto, a United States District Court must assume jurisdiction to determine whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, provided that the claim is not frivolous but arguable, Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 66 S.Ct. 773, 90 L.Ed. 939 (1946); Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Northwestern Public Service Co., 341 U.S. 246, 71 S.Ct. 692, 95 L.Ed. 912 (1951), and that the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000.00.*fn2 Giancana v. Johnson, 335 F.2d 366 (7th Cir. 1964), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 1001, 85 S.Ct. 718, 13 L.Ed.2d 702. Where, as here, jurisdiction depends upon subject matter, the question whether jurisdiction exists should not be confused with the question whether the complaint states a valid cause of action. The latter involves a decision on the merits; the former does not. A claim should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction unless it appears, to a legal certainty, that the claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous so far as the Constitution is concerned. Bell v. Hood, supra; Wheeldin v. Wheeler, 373 U.S. 647, 83 S.Ct. 1441, 10 L.Ed.2d 605 (1963).

Although plaintiff's claim against Provident Hospital for damages under the Fourteenth Amendment appears rather insubstantial, experience teaches that the wiser and better practice is for the Court to assume jurisdiction over this cause for the purpose of determining whether Count I states a cause of action against Provident under the Constitution. Wheeldin v. Wheeler, supra.

Although equitable actions have been permitted to be brought to enforce rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment, e. g., Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed.2d 256 (1964), it has consistently been held that the Constitutional Amendments are not self-executing as far as civil actions for damages are concerned. Wheeldin v. Wheeler, supra; Bell v. Hood, 71 F. Supp. 813 (S.D.Cal. 1947).

But assuming, arguendo, that an action for damages "arising under" Amendments to the United States Constitution can be brought against an individual or a corporation, see, Wheeldin v. Wheeler, 373 U.S. 647, 653-667, 83 S.Ct. 1441 (1963) (opinion of Mr. Justice Brennan); Nash v. Air Terminal Services, Inc., 85 F. Supp. 545 (E.D.Va. 1949); clearly no violation of the Fourteenth Amendment is presented here.

  It is elementary that in order to establish a violation of
the Fourteenth Amendment, there must be "state action" which
results in a deprivation of a right,

privilege or immunity protected by that Amendment. Provident
Hospital is a private institution. Nowhere is it alleged that
it is involved with official agencies to such a "significant
extent", Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715,
81 S.Ct. 856, 6 L.Ed.2d 45 (1961), that its actions are to be
judged by constitutional standards. Compare, Simkins v. Moses
H. Cone Memorial Hospital, 323 F.2d 959 (4th Cir. 1963), cert.
denied, 376 U.S. 938, 84 S.Ct. 793, 11 L.Ed.2d 659, (Hospital
receiving Federal funds under Hill-Burton Act); Smith v.
Holiday Inns of America, Inc., 336 F.2d 630 (6th Cir. 1964,
(motel erected on land purchased in city redevelopment project
from city housing authority, which developed program with
city, state and federal funds, and imposed continuing
controls); Todd v. Joint Apprenticeship Committee, 223 F. Supp. 12
 (N.D.Ill. 1963), rev'd on grounds of mootness, 332 F.2d 243
(7th Cir. 1964), cert. denied, 380 U.S. 914, 85 S.Ct. 880, 13
L.Ed.2d 800 (city participation in vocational training
program); Girard College Trusteeship, 391 Pa. 434,
138 A.2d 844 (1958), cert. denied, 357 U.S. 570, 78 S.Ct. 1383, 2
L.Ed.2d 1546 (administration of charitable trust transferred
from public to private control); Clark, Charitable Trusts, The
Fourteenth Amendment, And the Will of Stephen Girard, 66 Yale
L.J. 979 (1957).

Nor is it alleged that hospital employees participated jointly or in concert with police officers in a common scheme to deprive plaintiff of his constitutionally protected rights. The mere fact that hospital employees requested Chicago police officers to remove plaintiff from the premises, without more, is insufficient either to constitute "state action" on the part of the Hospital in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, or to attribute to the Hospital any alleged subsequent wrongdoing on the part of public officials. Compare, Griffin v. State of Maryland, 378 U.S. 130, 84 S.Ct. 1770, 12 L.Ed.2d 754 (1964); Bell v. State of Maryland, 378 U.S. 226, 286, 84 S.Ct. 1814, 12 L.Ed.2d 822 (opinion of Mr. Justice Goldberg), 318 (opinion of Mr. Justice Black) (1964). See generally, Lewis, The Sit-In Cases: Great Expectations, 1963 Sup.Ct.Rev. 101; Berle, Constitutional Limitations on Corporate Activity-Protection of Personal Rights From Invasion Economic Power, 100 U.Pa.L.Rev. 933 (1952).

Of controlling importance is the absence of any allegation that the refusal of the Hospital to render immediate medical care was based upon racial discrimination or some other type of unreasonable, arbitrary, or "invidious, purposeful discrimination." Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1, 64 S.Ct. 397, 88 L.Ed. 497 (1944). Plaintiff has not alleged any facts showing that he was treated differently from others under similar circumstances and conditions; and the Court fails to find any circumstances pleaded in the complaint, or reasonable inferences to be drawn from plaintiff's allegations, which amount to discrimination, much less discrimination of the nature prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment. Cf. Stanturf v. Sipes, 335 F.2d 224 (8th Cir. 1964), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 977, 85 S.Ct. 676, 13 L.Ed.2d 567. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that plaintiff's claim against Provident Hospital based upon the Fourteenth Amendment is totally without merit and fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

CAUSE OF ACTION BASED UPON THE FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS ACT

The jurisdictional section of the Federal Civil Rights Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, provides in pertinent part:

    "The district courts shall have original
  jurisdiction of any civil action authorized by
  law to be commenced by any person:

    "(3) To redress the deprivation, under color of
  any State law, statute, ordinance, regulation,
  custom or usage, of any right, privilege or
  immunity secured by the Constitution of the
  United States or by any Act of Congress providing
  for equal

  rights of citizens or of all persons within the
  jurisdiction of the United States;

    "(4) To recover damages or to secure equitable
  or other relief under any Act of Congress
  providing for the protection of civil rights,
  including the right to vote."

In Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961), the United States Supreme Court affirmed the right of an individual and his family to seek redress in damages under the Federal Civil Rights Act against several police officers who abused their authority by breaking into plaintiffs' home in the early morning, without good cause, in violation of plaintiffs' constitutionally protected rights of privacy. See also, Monroe v. Pape, 221 F. Supp. 635 (N.D. 111. 1963). The Court held that misuse of power possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law is action taken "under color of" state law within the meaning of the Act.

Nowhere has plaintiff in the instant case alleged that Hospital employees themselves acted "under color of" state law, Shemaites v. Froemke, 189 F.2d 963 (7th Cir. 1951), or that they acted pursuant to some custom or usage in this community*fn3, see, Peterson v. City of Greenville, 373 U.S. 244, 83 S.Ct. 1119, 10 L.Ed.2d 323 (1963); Lombard v. State of Louisiana, 373 U.S. 267, 83 S.Ct. 1122, 10 L.Ed.2d 338 (1963), in order to deprive plaintiff of his Federal constitutional rights. Nor has plaintiff alleged that Hospital employees acted in a conspiracy with the police officers to deprive plaintiff of the equal protection of the laws or equal privileges and immunities under the laws. Egan v. City of Aurora, 291 F.2d 706 (7th Cir. 1961); Jennings v. Nester, 217 F.2d 153 (7th Cir. 1955).*fn4

A liberal reading of the complaint here indicates that what plaintiff really complains of is the commission of an ordinary tort. At most, Count I alleges a common law tort based upon state law. Plaintiff has attempted to clothe this garden variety tort claim in the garb of "civil rights" in order to invoke Federal jurisdiction not otherwise available in the absence of diversity of citizenship.

The Federal Civil Rights Act was never intended to supersede state law regarding recovery for breach of an individual's duty to render necessary medical care and treatment. Rather, it is designed to correct official abuse of power resulting in a deprivation of federally protected rights. Monroe v. Pape, supra. It is at once apparent that plaintiff's claim against Provident Hospital predicated upon the Federal Civil Rights Act is without merit.

Even if the Court were to assume jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 in order to determine whether the complaint states a valid cause of action under the substantive provisions of the Federal Civil Rights Act, Campbell v. Glenwood Hills Hospital, Inc., 224 F. Supp. 27 (D.Minn. 1963); C.O.R.E. v. Clemmons, 323 F.2d 54 (5th Cir. 1963), it is clear that Count I fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, § 1985 or § 1986. Collins v. Hardyman, 341 U.S. 651, 71 S.Ct. 937, 95 L.Ed. 1253 (1951); Miles v. Armstrong, 207 F.2d 284 (7th Cir. 1953); Egan v. City of Aurora, supra; Hoffman v. Halden, 268 F.2d 280 (9th Cir. 1959).

Plaintiff has not sought to invoke any other provisions of Federal law; but it is clear that this action could not have been brought either under the Hill-Burton Act, 42 U.S.C. § 291 et seq., Stanturf v. Sipes, 335 F.2d 224 (8th Cir. 1964), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 977, 85 S.Ct. 676, or under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a et seq.*fn5

Although plaintiff may possibly have a cause of action based upon state law — and this Court intimates no view on that matter — he has not properly pleaded such a claim under Rule 8 F.R. Civ.P. Wheeldin v. Wheeler, 373 U.S. 647, 83 S.Ct. 1441, 10 L.Ed.2d 605 (1963). But assuming, arguendo, that plaintiff's allegations may be sufficient to state a claim under state common law, there appears to be no good reason why this Court should assume "pendent jurisdiction" to hear such a claim*fn6 where, as here, the Court has determined, before defendant has filed an answer, that the Federal claims presented are totally without merit, and that they must be dismissed. Cf. Bell v. Hood, 71 F. Supp. 813 (S.D.Cal. 1947); O'Neill v. Maytag, 339 F.2d 764, 766-767 (2d Cir. 1964). To hold otherwise, i. e., that plenary trial of an ancillary claim could be compelled by a primary claim which could be disposed of on the pleadings, would, in effect, permit "the dog [to] be wagged by his tail." Hart & Wechsler, The Federal Courts and the Federal System, 808 (1953); Note, 62 Columbia L.Rev. 1018 (1962). See also, Wojtas v. Village of Niles, 334 F.2d 797 (7th Cir. 1964), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 964, 85 S.Ct. 655, 13 L.Ed.2d 558.

Accordingly, it is ordered that Count I of the instant complaint be, and the same hereby is, dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Said dismissal is without prejudice to the assertion of any cause of action plaintiff may have under state law against Provident Hospital in an appropriate forum.

And it is so ordered.


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