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Waksmundski v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

February 27, 2017

JOHN WAKSMUNDSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
CRYSTAL L. WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 24)

          Timothy S. Black, United States District Judge

         This civil action is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 24)[1]and the parties' responsive memoranda (Docs. 25, 26).

         I. FACTS AS ALLEGED BY THE PLAINTIFF

         For purposes of this motion to dismiss, the Court must: (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff; and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Tackett v. M&G Polymers, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009).

         In 1986, Plaintiff began attending Xavier University (“XU”), but in 1987, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corp Reserves, attending boot camp from October - December 1987. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.3).

         In 1988, Plaintiff resumed his education at XU and graduated in December 1990. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.4). One day after he graduated, Plaintiff was activated for Desert Shield- Desert Storm. (Id.) Plaintiff served in the United States Marine Corp Reserves for six years (1987-93) and received an Honorable Discharge in August of 1995. (Id. at ¶ 4.5).

         In or about January 2003, Plaintiff began receiving medical care, which included psychological counseling, at the Cincinnati VA Hospital. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.6).

         In late summer or early fall 2007, Plaintiff was contacted by the VA Hospital suggesting that he should come in for treatment. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.7). Plaintiff responded and began receiving all of his health care at the Cincinnati VA. He started receiving counseling from a social worker for approximately six months, but was then transferred to the care of Defendant Crystal L. Williams (“Dr. Williams”). (Id.)

         Plaintiff counseled with Dr. Williams once a week for a number of years and benefited from those sessions. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.8). In spite of his military service and education, Plaintiff's family history and other life experiences burdened him with depression and anxiety. (Id.) Plaintiff also had significant issues in trusting other people. (Id.) Dr. Williams once told Plaintiff that he was one of the most severe cases she had ever encountered with respect to anxiety and mistrust. (Id.) The counseling with Dr. Williams went on for several years before Plaintiff fully “opened up.” (Id.)

         During a group therapy session with other male veterans in late 2013 or early 2014, the topics of homosexuality, gays in the military, and gay marriage were discussed. (Doc. 3 at ¶¶ 4.11, 4.12). Plaintiff expressed his opposition to gays in the military and gay marriage, statements firmly grounded in his beliefs as a Roman Catholic. (Id., at 4.12) Plaintiff later discovered that he was falsely accused by Defendants and/or others at the VA hospital of distributing “anti-gay” literature. (Id.)

         In the weeks and months that followed, Dr. Williams-whom Plaintiff alleges “favors Homosexual rights and has pro-gay symbols posted in her office”-expressed her disapproval of Plaintiff's views as he stated them during the group meetings and treated him with an increased hostility. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.12). Dr. Williams denied Plaintiff participation in a new therapy group that she intended to form in February 2014, a decision that was contrary to her previous promises that Plaintiff would be a welcome participant in the new group. (Id.)

         On March 25, 2014, Dr. Williams informed Plaintiff that she would no longer serve as his counselor and would not refer him for treatment by any of her colleagues at the VA Hospital. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.13). Plaintiff reacted to this news by entering into what appeared to be a catatonic state, refusing to talk or answer questions for a prolonged period of time. (Id.) Plaintiff was transported to the VA Hospital Emergency room but eventually returned to normal and responsive behavior and elected to go home. (Id.)

         As a direct and proximate result of the actual and perceived denial of care by the Defendants, Plaintiff fell into a deep isolation and depression with a level of anxiety that left him essentially non-functional. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.14). He essentially ignored subsequent contacts from the Defendants and others at the VA Hospital, unable to trust their motives and plans for him. (Id.)

         Defendants Sloan and Barrett were directly involved with Defendant Williams in Plaintiff's care and in the denial of care, having been advised of the decisions and provided with the related medical records. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.15). Plaintiff was participating in another weekly group meeting under Defendant Sloan's supervision during that same period, and Defendants Sloan and Williams were actively collaborating in decisions about Plaintiff's care. (Id.) Plaintiff believes that Defendant Williams could not have terminated his care without the approval of Defendant Barrett. (Id.)

         As a direct and proximate result of the acts and omissions of the Defendants, Plaintiff lived for two years without needed psychological treatment, group counseling, and medications that were beneficial and necessary for his proper functioning. (Doc. 3 at ¶ 4.17). Plaintiff claims that he was humiliated, became isolated, lost hope, and otherwise suffered extreme emotional distress that affects him up to the present time and will likely continue into the foreseeable future. (Id. at ¶ 4.18).

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging that Defendants failed to provide psychological care and counseling to which Plaintiff was entitled in violation of the First Amendment (speech and religion) and the Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection) of the United States Constitution.[2] Plaintiff seeks damages for these alleged constitutional violations from Defendants-individuals employed by the VA-in their individual capacity. (Id. at 9).

         Defendants maintain that the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim because Plaintiff does not have a remedy for damages against individual employees of the VA. (Doc. 24 at 12-16). Defendants also argue the Complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because (1) Plaintiff's claims are preempted by the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (“VJRA”); and (2) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Id. at 8-12).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Ru ...


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