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LINDGREN v. MOORE

September 29, 1995

RICHARD D. LINDGREN, M.D., LAURA A. GARDNER, and MARK R. LINDGREN, Plaintiffs,
v.
JANET L. MOORE and JAMES F. CASSENS, Ph.D., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COAR

 In February 1994 plaintiffs Richard Lindgren ("father"), Mark Lindgren ("brother"), and Laura Lindgren ("sister") filed suit against Janet Moore ("therapist") and her supervisor, Dr. James Cassens ("supervisor") alleging various Illinois torts that arose from the psychological treatment of Amy Lindgren ("patient/daughter"). The Complaint lists twenty-seven counts, but in essence there are only five distinct causes of action. All three plaintiffs bring the following counts against both defendants: Malpractice (Counts I, VI, VIII, XIII, XIX, XXIV); Negligence (Counts II, VII, IX, XIV, XX, XXV); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Counts III, X, XV, XVII, XXI, XXVI); and Loss of Society & Companionship (Counts IV, XI, XVI, XVIII, XXII, XXVII). All of these counts allege Illinois common law claims of recovery. The plaintiffs also bring a claim of Public Nuisance against therapist Janet Moore for practicing clinical psychology without a license (Counts V, XII, XXIII).

 In February, 1995, both defendants moved to dismiss all counts of the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Alternatively, they move to dismiss the entire complaint for failure to acquire a proper medical report as required by Illinois Law as a prerequisite to bringing suit against the defendants. They also move to strike any claim for punitive damages. This Court now addresses these arguments for dismissal.

 Plaintiffs reside in Wisconsin and Iowa; Defendants reside in Illinois. Thus, there is a diversity of citizenship and this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332.

 I. BACKGROUND

 This case embodies a relatively recent development in tort jurisprudence, disturbing for both its legal and sociological ramifications and its intrusive effects on relationships in general. The father, sister, and brother of Amy Lindgren are suing her therapist and the therapist's supervisor for inducing what has been labelled as "False Memory Syndrome." The typical scenario mirrors the facts of this case: a person solicits treatment from a therapist because of one or more physical/mental problems. The therapist "suggests" that "repressed" memories of sexual abuse lie at the root of the illness and proceeds to treat the patient by attempting to "recover" those memories. "Recovering" those memories is intended to create a wave of catharsis that carries the patient to mental health by freeing her from the demons of her past. Frequently this catharsis leaves destroyed all family relationships in its wake. Articles and books indicate that this methodology has become a very popular treatment in mental health circles, but critics deride the practice as a mere placebo: the patient thinks they have been cured by reaching the source of the problem, but if the memories are mere fantasy, the treatment causes more harm than healing, and not only to the patient. *fn1" There are even support groups for family members who have become "victims" of another member's false memories. *fn2" This is the backdrop on which to view the case at bar.

 Plaintiffs allege that daughter Amy Lindgren, now 28 years old, first sought treatment from the defendant therapist in October 1990 for depression and bulimia. (Amended Complaint, at P10). Therapist Janet Moore used various clinical psychological methods to treat the daughter (such as hypnosis, biofeedback, and psychoanalysis) even though the therapist was not licensed in Illinois as a clinical psychologist. (Id., at PP11,12). The therapist did nothing to affirmatively indicate the she was not, in fact, a clinical psychologist. The therapist prescribed a program for the daughter which included among other things, the reading of "The Courage to Heal" by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. *fn3" As a result of the treatments, the daughter began having "flashbacks" of being sexually abused by her father, one of the plaintiffs. (Id., at P 14). Plaintiffs deny that any such events ever occurred. (Id. at P16).

 Plaintiffs maintain that not only was such a course of treatment not proper for the disorders from which the daughter suffered, but that the therapist took advantage of the patient's mental state in using the "Recovered Memory" therapy. In addition, they challenge the use of such methods in general as being unreliable and improper under the circumstances. (Id. at P17). These allegations form the basis of the negligence and malpractice claims.

 Alternatively, Plaintiffs allege that the defendants "falsely convinced Amy that she was abused by [her father] in the course of 'therapy.'" (Id. at P20(b)). The therapist knew, or had reason to know that such a course of treatment would ultimately lead to destruction of the family unit and permanent estrangement of the daughter from the rest of her relations. (Id.). Before the treatment, all the plaintiffs had maintained close, enjoyable relationships with the patient. (Id. at p.9). Plaintiffs maintain that the false accusations brought about by the therapist's treatments have caused permanent and severe damage to their physical, mental, and emotional health. (Id., at P22). They also allege that both the therapist and her supervisor intentionally caused the plaintiffs to suffer humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional distress. (Id. at P23). Plaintiffs do not indicate the daughter's current state of physical or mental health; nor do they allege that the daughter has sustained any injuries or suffers harm at this point in time. Amy is not a plaintiff in this action.

 II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTIONS TO DISMISS

 A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) should be granted if the complaint does not state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Corcoran v. Chicago Park Dist., 875 F.2d 609, 611 (7th Cir. 1989). When evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must assume that all of the factual allegations in the pleadings are true, and must construe the pleadings and all reasonable inferences which derive therefrom in favor of the non-moving party. Prince v. Rescorp Realty, 940 F.2d 1104, 1106 (7th Cir. 1991). Unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no facts which would entitle them to relief, the Court must deny the motion. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957); Mid-America Title Co. v. Kirk, 991 F.2d 417, 419 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 310, 114 S. Ct. 346 (1993). The facts as alleged are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs for the purpose of determining the defendants' motion to dismiss. Dimmig v. Wahl, 983 F.2d 86, 87 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 135, 114 S. Ct. 176 (1993). However, the court need not strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiffs which are not apparent on the face of the complaint. Coates v. Illinois St. Bd. of Educ., 559 F.2d 445, 447 (7th Cir.1977). Similarly, the court is not required to accept legal conclusions either alleged or inferred from pleaded facts. Nelson v. Monroe Regional Medical Ctr., 925 F.2d 1555, 1559 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 903, 112 S. Ct. 285, 116 L. Ed. 2d 236 (1991).

 III. ANALYSIS

 A. Malpractice & Professional Negligence

 Plaintiffs allege that the actions of the defendants constitute malpractice and/or negligent behavior. Defendants argue that they had no duty to the plaintiffs, as they were third parties to the defendants' relationship with their patient Amy.

 Although several cases have been recently filed by family members of patients who have allegedly had false memories induced, the dispositions thus far have not been useful in the determination of this case. Most of those cases were decided on statute of limitations or statute of repose grounds; the question has largely been whether the "repression" of the memories tolled the statute of limitations on the alleged abuses. *fn4" However, the statute of limitations is not an issue here; this court must delve further into the substantive area of therapy through "retrieving" "repressed" memories ...


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