EILERS v. COY Civ. No. 4-82-1329.
582 F.Supp. 1093 (1984)
William EILERS, Plaintiff, v. Deborah Ann COY, Daniel Charles Graham, Robert Lewis Brandyberry, Larry Bisman, Vincent Jennings, Defendants.
United States District Court, D. Minnesota, Fourth Division.
March 6, 1984.
Lee Boothby and Robert A. Yingst, Boothby, Huff & Yingst, Berrien Springs, Mich., for plaintiff.
William M. Schade, Somsen, Dempsey & Schade, New Ulm, Minn., Gregory F. Kuderer, Erickson, Zierke, Kuderer, Myster, Madsen & Wollschlager, Fairmont, Minn., and Xavier E. Grenas, Houston, Tex., for defendants Deborah Ann Coy, Daniel Charles Graham and Larry Bisman.
Vincent Jennings, pro se.
Robert Lewis Brandyberry, pro se.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MacLAUGHLIN, District Judge.
The plaintiff in this case, William Eilers, has moved the Court to enter a directed verdict against the defendants on his claims that the defendants falsely imprisoned him and violated his civil rights during a deprogramming attempt in 1982. Both sides have submitted briefs on the question and the Court has heard oral argument.
After careful consideration the Court has decided as follows:
1. Plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict on the issue of false imprisonment is granted and the Court holds, as a matter of law, that plaintiff William Eilers was falsely imprisoned without legal justification.
2. Plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict with respect to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) is granted as to certain elements of the plaintiff's claim that a conspiracy on the part of the defendants deprived him of certain of his federal constitutional rights.
The evidence in this case has established the following facts. The plaintiff William Eilers and his pregnant wife Sandy were abducted from outside a clinic in Winona, Minnesota in the early afternoon of Monday, August 16, 1982, by their parents and
At the time of the abduction, Bill and Sandy Eilers were members of the religious group Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is ample evidence that this group is an authoritarian religious fellowship directed with an iron hand by Brother Rama Behera. There is also evidence that Bill Eilers' personality, and to some extent his appearance, changed substantially after he became a member of the group. These changes were clearly of great concern to members of the plaintiff's family. However, other than as they may have affected the intent of the parents of Bill and Sandy Eilers in the actions they took in seizing Bill and Sandy, the beliefs and practices of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ should not be, and are not, on trial in this case.
While leaving the Winona Clinic on August 16, 1982 the plaintiff, who was on crutches at the time due to an earlier fall, was grabbed from behind by two or more security men, forced into a waiting van, and driven to the Tau Center in Winona, Minnesota.
The plaintiff was held at the Tau Center for five and one-half days and subjected to the defendants' attempts to deprogram him. Shortly after his arrival at the Tau Center, and after a violent struggle with his captors, the plaintiff was handcuffed to a bed. He remained handcuffed to the bed for at least the first two days of his confinement. During this initial period, he was allowed out of the room only to use the bathroom, and was heavily guarded during those times. On one occasion, the plaintiff dashed down the hall in an attempt to escape, but was forcibly restrained and taken back to the room. After several days of resistance, the plaintiff changed tactics and apparently pretended to consent to his confinement.
The defendants and the plaintiff's relatives had agreed in advance of the abduction that the plaintiff would be kept at the Tau Center for one week, regardless of whether the plaintiff consented to their actions. At no time during the week was the plaintiff free to leave the Tau Center, nor at any time were reasonable means of escape available to him. Three of the eight people hired by the parents were designated "security men." These individuals, described by witnesses as at least six feet tall and weighing over 200 pounds, guarded the exits on the floor at all times.
On the evening of Saturday, August 21, 1982, as the plaintiff was leaving the Tau Center to be transported to Iowa City, Iowa for further deprogramming, he took advantage of his first opportunity to escape and jumped from the car in which he was riding. Local residents, attracted by the plaintiff's calls for help, assisted the plaintiff in making his escape and the police were summoned.
The evidence has also shown that within three weeks before the abduction occurred, the plaintiff's relatives had contacted authorities in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin in an attempt to have the plaintiff civilly committed. Family members have testified that they believed the plaintiff was suicidal because of a letter he had written to his
In considering the plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict, the Court is required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendants and to resolve all conflicts in the evidence in the defendants' favor. Dace v. ACF Industries, Inc., 722 F.2d 374, 375 (8th Cir.1983). A directed verdict motion should be granted only when reasonable jurors could not differ as to the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence. Id.
The plaintiff has alleged two main causes of action against the defendants: false imprisonment and conspiracy to deprive the plaintiff of his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). These claims will be discussed separately.
A. False Imprisonment
The plaintiff's first claim is that the defendants' conduct in confining him at the Tau Center constituted false imprisonment for which the defendants had no legal justification. False imprisonment consists of three elements:
Blaz v. Molin Concrete Products Co., 309 Minn. 382, 385, 244 N.W.2d 277, 279 (1976); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 35 (1965).
The evidence in this case has over-whelmingly established each of the elements of false imprisonment. By their own admission, the defendants intended to confine the plaintiff for at least one week. While the defendants maintain that their purpose was to help the plaintiff, it is not a defense to false imprisonment that the defendants may have acted with good motives. Malice toward the person confined is not an element of false imprisonment. Strong v. City of Milwaukee, 38 Wis.2d 564, 567, 157 N.W.2d 619, 621 (1968); Witte v. Haben, 131 Minn. 71, 74, 154 N.W. 662, 663 (1915); W. Prosser, Law of Torts 48 (4th ed. 1971).
There is also no question that the plaintiff was actually confined. Relying on the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision in Peterson v. Sorlien, 299 N.W.2d 123, 129 (Minn.1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 1031, 101 S.Ct. 1742, 68 L.Ed.2d 227 (1981), the defendants contend that there was no actual confinement because there is evidence that the plaintiff consented to the defendants' actions, at least by the fourth day of his confinement.
The next question is, given that the defendants falsely imprisoned the plaintiff, were their actions legally justified so as to preclude liability for false imprisonment? As justification for their actions, the defendants rely on the defense of necessity. They claim that the confinement and attempted deprogramming of the plaintiff was necessary to prevent him from committing suicide or from otherwise harming himself or others. See State v. Hembd, 305 Minn. 120, 130, 232 N.W.2d 872, 878 (1975).
The defense of necessity has three elements.
The second and third elements of the necessity defense are intertwined. The second element is that the right to confine a person in order to prevent harm to that person lasts only as long as is necessary to get the person to the proper lawful authorities. See State v. Hembd, 305 Minn. 120, 130, 232 N.W.2d 872, 878 (1975) (dictum); Annot., 92 A.L.R.2d 580 (1963). The third element is that the actor must use the least restrictive means of preventing the apprehended harm. People v. Patrick, 126 Cal.App.3d 952, 960, 179 Cal.Rptr. 276, 282 (1981); W. LaFave and A. Scott, Criminal Law 387 (1972); cf. Peterson v. Sorlien, 299 N.W.2d 123, 129 (Minn.1980) (where religious beliefs are implicated, first amendment requires resort to least restrictive alternative).
In this case, the defendants' conduct wholly fails to satisfy either of these elements of the necessity defense. Once having gained control of the plaintiff, the defendants had several legal options available to them. They could have:
At no time did the defendants attempt, or even consider attempting, any of these lawful alternatives during the five and one-half days they held the plaintiff, the first five of which were business days. Instead, they took the plaintiff to a secluded location with boarded-up windows, held him incommunicado, and proceeded to inflict their own crude methods of "therapy" upon him — methods which even the defendants' own expert witness has condemned. Well aware that the police were searching for the plaintiff, the defendants deliberately concealed the plaintiff's location from the police.
It must be emphasized that the Minnesota Legislature has prescribed specific procedures that must be followed before a person can be deprived of his or her liberty on the basis of mental illness. Minn.Stat. § 253B.07 et seq. (1982); see generally Janus and Wolfson, The Minnesota Commitment Act of 1982: Summary and Analysis, 6 Hamline L.Rev. 41 (1983). Those procedures include examination of the proposed patient by qualified professionals, Minn.Stat. § 253B.07, subd. 1 (1982), and a judicial determination that the proposed patient is dangerous and in need of treatment, id., subd. 6. Manifold procedural protections, including the right to counsel, Minn.Stat. § 253B.03, subd. 9 (1982), are afforded the proposed patient at all stages of this civil commitment proceeding. Obviously, none of these protections were afforded the plaintiff in this case.
Minnesota law also provides that, in situations where there is not time to obtain a court order, a person may be admitted or held for emergency care and treatment in a hospital, without a court order, upon a written statement by a licensed physician or psychologist that the person is mentally ill and is in imminent danger of causing injury to himself or to others. Minn.Stat. § 253B.05, subd. 1 (1982). The defendants in this case — unlicensed and untrained individuals — made no effort to obtain any such
The defendants' failure to even attempt to use the lawful alternatives available to them is fatal to their assertion of the necessity defense. Where the Legislature has prescribed specific procedures that must be followed before a person can be deprived of his or her liberty on the ground of mental illness, not even parents or their agents acting under the best of motives are entitled to disregard those procedures entirely.
The Court has assumed for the purposes of this motion that the defendants were justified in initially restraining the plaintiff based upon their belief that he was in imminent danger of harming himself or others. But even under those circumstances, the defense of necessity eventually dissipates as a matter of law. No specific time limit can be set, because the period during which an actor is acting out of necessity will vary depending on the circumstances of each case. In this particular case, however, where the defendants held the plaintiff, a 24-year-old adult, for five and one-half days with no attempt to resort to lawful alternatives available to them, the Court could not sustain a jury verdict in the defendants' favor on the issue of false imprisonment. Accordingly, the Court rules as a matter of law that the plaintiff was falsely imprisoned without justification. The issue of what amount of damages, if any, the plaintiff suffered from this false imprisonment is a question for the jury.
B. Section 1985(3)
The next claim upon which the plaintiff has moved for a directed verdict is that the defendants conspired to and did deprive him of his federal constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). The Court will direct a verdict as to some, but not all, of the elements of this claim.
A cause of action under section 1985(3) consists of the following elements:
Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 102-03, 91 S.Ct. 1790, 1798, 29 L.Ed.2d 338 (1971).
Three of these elements are clearly present in this case. By their own admission, the defendants planned and conspired to abduct the plaintiff and to hold him against his will. They committed several acts in furtherance of this conspiracy including seizing the plaintiff at the Winona Clinic, transporting him to the Tau Center, and holding him there against his will for five and one-half days. These actions were in clear violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights, including his right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, see Taylor v. Gilmartin, 686 F.2d 1346, 1358 (10th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1147, 103 S.Ct. 788, 74 L.Ed.2d 994
The remaining element is that the conspiracy be for the purpose of depriving the plaintiff of the equal protection of the laws. The United States Supreme Court has interpreted this element as requiring that the defendants' conduct be motivated by class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus. Griffin, 403 U.S. at 102, 91 S.Ct. at 1798. In other words, in order for the plaintiff to recover under section 1985(3), the defendants must have taken action against him because of his membership in a group or class that is protected by that statute. The Court has previously ruled in this case that the religious group Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ is a group protected by the statute. See, e.g., Taylor v. Gilmartin, 686 F.2d 1346, 1357-58 (10th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1147, 103 S.Ct. 788, 74 L.Ed.2d 994 (1983); Ward v. Connor, 657 F.2d 45, 48 (4th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 907, 102 S.Ct. 1253, 71 L.Ed.2d 445 (1982); Action v. Gannon, 450 F.2d 1227, 1231-32 (8th Cir.1971) (en banc); Cooper v. Molko, 512 F.Supp. 563, 569 (N.D.Cal.1981); Comment, The Deprogramming of Religious Sect Members: A Private Right of Action Under Section 1985(3), 74 N.W.U.L.Rev. 229 (1979). The remaining question is whether the defendants took action against the plaintiff because of an animus toward that group or, as the defendants contend, because of a concern for the welfare of the plaintiff. The Court finds that the defendants' motivation is an issue upon which reasonable jurors could differ. See, e.g., Augenti v. Cappellini, 84 F.R.D. 73, 78 (M.D.Pa.1979). The Court therefore denies the plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict on this element of the plaintiff's section 1985(3) cause of action.
This will not be a popular decision. While the Court has substantial sympathy for the feelings and reactions of the parents of Bill and Sandy Eilers, this Court is sworn to uphold the law and the Constitution of the United States.
Based on the foregoing,
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