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Carl v. Muskegon County

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 15, 2014

TIMOTHY A. CARL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MUSKEGON COUNTY, et al., Defendants, KATHERINE JAWOR, Defendant-Appellee

Page 593

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids. No. 1:11-cv-00094--Robert J. Jonker, District Judge.

ON BRIEF

Bradford W. Springer, SCHOLTEN FANT, P.C., Grand Haven, Michigan, for Appellant.

Douglas P. Vanden Berge, RHOADES MCKEE, P.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.

Before: COLE, Chief Judge; ROGERS and ALARCÓ N, Circuit Judges.[*]

OPINION

Page 594

COLE, Chief Judge.

Medical professionals at the Muskegon County Jail evaluated Timothy Carl, a pretrial detainee with a history of mental illness, after he exhibited several odd behaviors. Concerned that Carl might endanger himself or others, Dr. Katherine Jawor examined Carl but determined that he did not meet the criteria for involuntary hospitalization. In making this determination, Dr. Jawor acted under color of state law because she performed a public function by evaluating an individual in the state's custody. The district court erred in reaching a different conclusion. We therefore reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment to Dr. Jawor and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

Timothy Carl was arrested under bizarre circumstances. While working as an in-home healthcare provider for an elderly couple, Carl experienced a psychotic break, urinating on one client's head and attempting to dispense liquid soap on another's. Muskegon County prosecutors charged Carl with vulnerable-adult abuse, and he was held as a pretrial detainee at the county jail.

The strange nature of Carl's arrest, coupled with his behavior during the inmate-booking process, prompted an evaluation as to whether he presented a danger to himself or others and whether he should be involuntarily hospitalized. Mental health services at the jail were contracted out to an agency established by Muskegon County. That agency, Community Mental Health Services (" CMH" ), agreed to " provide mental health [and psychiatric] services to the inmates of the Muskegon County Jail" in its operating agreement.

On March 3, 2008, two CMH employees, Jule McLaughlin and Steve Weinert, examined Carl at the jail. McLaughlin, a physician's assistant, indicated that Carl was " floridly psychotic," that he had considered killing himself, and that he required treatment in a psychiatric facility. McLaughlin had previously prescribed Carl an anti-psychotic medication but noted that his current medications were " not very effective."

Weinert's assessment of Carl echoed McLaughlin's conclusions. Weinert, a limited-licensed psychologist at CMH, documented that Carl was " paranoid" because he described a " glowing light in his cell that [was] tugging at his brain." In Weinert's judgment, Carl " require[d] intensive psychiatric treatment" and hospitalization. Unable to certify Carl for involuntary hospitalization himself, Weinert enlisted Dr. ...


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