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Paylan v. Teitelbaum

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Gainesville Division

January 11, 2018

CHRISTINA PAYLAN, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT TEITELBAUM, M.D., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          GARY R. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on ECF No. 120, Defendant Scott Teitelbaum, MD's Motion for Summary Judgment, and ECF No. 122, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. Both parties have filed responses to the motions for summary judgment and a reply, if any. (ECF Nos. 146, 159, 162.) The motions are, therefore, ripe for review. For the reasons explained below, the undersigned recommends that Defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted and Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied.[1]

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff (“Dr. Paylan”), a cosmetic surgeon, is proceeding pro se pursuant to a complaint alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Florida law. (ECF No. 31 (“Compl.”).) Dr. Paylan's remaining claims[2]against Defendant (“Dr. Teitelbaum”) center around her visit to the Florida Recovery Center in July and August 2011 for a substance abuse evaluation by Dr. Teitelbaum. Based on her visits to the Florida Recovery Center, Dr. Paylan alleges that Dr. Teitelbaum violated her civil rights by fabricating evidence, Marchman Acting her, and unlawfully searching and seizing her property. Dr. Paylan also alleges that Dr. Teitelbaum falsely imprisoned her and committed fraud. (Compl. at 5-31.)

         Dr. Teitelbaum filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 120.) In support of Dr. Teitelbaum's motion, he submitted excepts of depositions, evaluations of Dr. Paylan by various doctors, orders of emergency suspension in 2011 and 2014, correspondences regarding Dr. Paylan, and other notes, forms, and declarations. (ECF Nos. 119-1-119-25.)

         Dr. Paylan submitted her own motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 122.) In support of her motion for summary judgment, Dr. Paylan submitted affidavits and declarations, [3] email correspondences, excerpts of depositions, the Marchman Act document, a copy of the police report from August 2, 2011, and other reports, state-court documents, and drug test results. Dr. Paylan also included some of the same evidence that Dr. Teitelbaum used in support of his motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 124-1-124-38.)[4]

         Other evidence was included in support of each party's response to the motions for summary judgment. These exhibits consist of additional deposition excerpts, email correspondences between the parties, documents regarding Dr. Paylan's education, other letters, and pictures taken during investigations of Dr. Paylan. (ECF Nos. 149, 158, 160.)[5]

         II. EVIDENCE[6]

         The filings and evidence provided in support thereof encompass events spanning from 2010 to present. Because the only remaining claims against Dr. Teitelbaum involve Dr. Paylan's visits to the Florida Recovery Center in July and August of 2011, the relevant evidence is summarized as follows.

         Dr. Paylan is a cosmetic surgeon in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Paylan was arrested on June 9, 2011, for trafficking in illegal drugs, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a drug without a prescription.[7]This arrest led to an investigation by the Florida Department of Health (“DOH”).[8] As a result of this investigation, Dr. Paylan was referred by a DOH investigator to the Professional Resource Network (“PRN”).[9] Bud Westmoreland of PRN informed Dr. Paylan that she needed to withdraw from the practice of medicine and submit to a substance abuse evaluation with an approved provider or PRN would recommend to DOH that DOH suspend her medical license. One of the approved providers was Dr. Teitelbaum, the medical director of the Florida Recovery Center. (Compl. at 5; ECF No. 119-1 at 6, 15; ECF No. 119-3 at 31; ECF No. 119-7 at 2; ECF No. 119-17; 119-19; ECF No. 124-1 at 1; ECF No. 124-3 at 4.)

         On July 1, 2011, Dr. Paylan was arrested again, this time in the Atlanta airport. Although Dr. Paylan says this arrest was a result of a suspicion that she was fleeing the country after liquidating her assets, the arrest warrant actually resulted from Demerol prescriptions that Dr. Paylan's fiancé attempted to pick up. That same day PRN advised Dr. Paylan that she needed to schedule her evaluation in three days and that if she did not, PRN would refer Dr. Paylan's case to DOH for appropriate disciplinary action. (ECF No. 119-2 at 52-53; ECF No. 119-7 at 2; ECF No. 119-16.)

         For this evaluation, on July 13, 2011, Dr. Paylan first visited Dr. Myers, a private physician and owner of HealthCare Connection who appeared on the PRN-approved list of providers. During this evaluation, Dr. Paylan provided a hair sample. A few hours into the evaluation, however, Dr. Paylan left and withdrew all medical releases. Dr. Myers informed Dr. Paylan that she was not safe to practice medicine until she completed an inpatient evaluation. (ECF No. 119-1; ECF No. 119-4 at 28; ECF No. 119-7.)

         Dr. Myers' report regarding Dr. Paylan includes findings from his short evaluation and information he received from DOH investigators. For example, Dr. Myers noted that a DOH investigator said there was a video showing track marks on Dr. Paylan's arms and Demerol bottles and needles strewn around her house. Additionally, Dr. Myers stated that Plaintiff's hair tested positive for metabolites of Demerol at high levels. He concluded:

Dr. Paylan currently meets DSM-IV criteria for opioid abuse and may meet criteria for dependence as well but her guarded attitude during her evaluation today in conjunction with her lack of willingness to allow contact with collateral sources of information make it impossible to provide a definitive assessment at this time.

         He recommended that Dr. Paylan undergo an inpatient evaluation. (ECF No. 119-7.)

         Upon learning of Dr. Paylan's failure to complete her evaluation, Dr. Paylan informed Mr. Westmoreland that she would complete an inpatient evaluation at the Florida Recovery Center.[10] Dr. Paylan then failed to report to the Florida Recovery Center as scheduled on multiple occasions, leading PRN to threaten Dr. Paylan that they would seek an emergency suspension of her medical license if she did not immediately report for an evaluation. (ECF No. 119-1 at 28-29, 32-33.)

         Finally, on July 21, 2011, Dr. Paylan arrived at the Florida Recovery Center at 2:00 a.m. Upon her arrival she was informed that she would be admitted overnight to the inpatient unit.[11] Because Dr. Paylan believed she would be permitted to stay in a hotel rather than be admitted, she left the Florida Recovery Center. (Compl. at 5-6; ECF No. 119-2 at 148, 152-53; ECF No. 124-1 at 2.)

         Dr. Judy Rivenbark, the Medical Director of PRN, sent a letter to DOH on July 25, 2011, stating that Dr. Paylan “is a serious and immediate danger to the citizens of the State of Florida.” This letter resulted from Dr. Paylan's arrest history, positive drug test, and her refusal to be evaluated. PRN then closed its file on Dr. Paylan. (ECF No. 119-14 at 7; ECF No. 119-18; ECF No. 119-19.)

         Dr. Paylan returned to the Florida Recovery Center on August 1, 2011. When Dr. Paylan was checking in to the facility, she filled out forms for voluntary admission as well as to release medical records, including the report from Dr. Myers' evaluation in July. Additionally, a staff member of the Florida Recovery Center searched her belongings and took her cell phone, iPad, keys, and other personal items. After Dr. Paylan was admitted, nurse Carole Johnson obtained urine and hair samples, and Dr. Teitelbaum and Dr. Abraham met with Dr. Paylan regarding her substance use history and the circumstances surrounding her evaluation. (Compl. at 6; ECF No. 119-2 at 274, 283; ECF No. 119-5 at 42-43; ECF No. 119-20; ECF No. 124-1 at 2-3; ECF No. 124-7 at 36; ECF No. 124-10 at 11-12.)

         The events of August 2, 2011, are a little more unclear based on the evidence submitted. According to Dr. Paylan, she asked Nancy Goodwin to speak with Dr. Teitelbaum at 7:30 a.m., but Ms. Goodwin told her to wait until about 2:30 p.m. to speak with him. Dr. Paylan was then directed into a group therapy session, and upon seeing individuals introduce themselves as drug addicts, Dr. Paylan returned to Ms. Goodwin asking for her iPhone and iPad and stating that she would wait in the reception area because she did not belong in group therapy. When it became clear that Dr. Paylan's possessions were not going to be returned to her, she called the Gainesville Police. Once the Gainesville Police arrived, Dr. Teitelbaum allegedly became enraged and instituted the Marchman Act in retaliation. (Compl. at 6-7; ECF No. 124-1 at 3-4; ECF No. 124-31.)

         According to Dr. Teitelbaum, however, Dr. Paylan decided she wanted to leave the Florida Recovery Center, so she barged into Dr. Teitelbaum's office at 7:30 a.m., saying she was not a drug addict and that she wanted to leave. Dr. Paylan was told to wait until the afternoon, but she refused. She told Nancy Goodwin that she revoked her authorization for the evaluation, and Ms. Goodwin informed Dr. Teitelbaum. According to Ms. Goodwin, during that morning Dr. Paylan was angry, upset, and very loud. After Dr. Paylan called the police, the police then met with Dr. Teitelbaum. (ECF No. 119-8 at 5; ECF No. 119-14 at 8; ECF No. 119-23; ECF No. 124-3 at 50; ECF No. 124-8 at 24-28.)

         Dr. Teitelbaum then instituted a Marchman Act against Dr. Paylan, which resulted in Dr. Paylan's transportation to a psychiatric unit at Shands Hospital, where she was held for between four and eight hours.[12]According to Dr. Teitelbaum, he instituted the Marchman Act because Dr. Paylan had a license to practice medicine and posed an immediate threat to the people in Florida. He based this determination on his interactions with her, Dr. Myers' evaluation, [13] and a DOH report.[14] Dr. Teitelbaum said he wanted to inform DOH of his findings before letting Dr. Paylan leave so that they could make a decision as to what to do about Dr. Paylan's medical license. Further, Dr. Teitelbaum said that he told Dr. Paylan that the purpose of the Marchman Act was to complete the evaluation, but she refused to complete any further evaluation and instead threatened to sue.[15](Compl. at 7-10; ECF No. 119-2 at 274; ECF No. 119-5 at 62, 100-02; ECF No. 119-14 at 7-8; ECF No. 124-6; ECF No. 124-7 at 55-56.)

         After Dr. Teitelbaum notified DOH regarding his interactions with and evaluation of Dr. Paylan, he felt comfortable enough to let Dr. Paylan leave. He specifically notified DOH because DOH makes the decision regarding taking way or suspending a physician's medical license. Although Dr. Paylan says no diagnostic steps were taken during her Marchman Act aside from asking whether she was suicidal, it is undisputed that Dr. Teitelbaum then discharged Dr. Paylan after a period of only hours. Dr. Teitelbaum also informed Dr. Paylan that it was his recommendation that she not practice medicine until fully evaluated. (ECF No. 119-5 at 62, 100-02; ECF No. 124-1 at 4.)

         In Dr. Teitelbaum's letter to DOH, he stated that based on the information he received as part of Dr. Paylan's evaluation, he “feel[s] comfortable with reasonable medical certainty that she cannot practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety at this time.” Dr. Teitelbaum stated that he interacted with her on both days of her evaluation. Dr. Teitelbaum also noted the positive hair test for Demerol, Dr. Myers' evaluation, criminal charges against her, the items seized from her home, and bruises on her arms. (ECF No. 119-23.)[16]

         On August 5, 2011, DOH issued an order to suspend Dr. Paylan's medical license. In support of this order, DOH cited investigations and findings of the Tampa Police Department, including a list of items seized during the execution of a search warrant (syringes, Demerol, etc.), the DOH investigator's findings, Dr. Paylan's failure to complete an evaluation, a positive drug test, and Dr. Teitelbaum's report regarding her August 2011 evaluation at the Florida Recover Center. (ECF No. 119-14.)

         Dr. Paylan's last interaction with Dr. Teitelbaum was during her October 2011 visit to the Florida Recovery Center, where she was fully evaluated for a substance abuse disorder following a court order requiring Dr. Paylan to be evaluated at the Florida Recover Center. None of her remaining claims relate to this October 2011 evaluation. (Compl. at 10-11; ECF No. 119-2 at 48, 265, 269.)

         III. SUMMARY JUDGEMENT STANDARD

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the entry of summary judgment is appropriate when the Court is satisfied that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In applying this standard, the Court must examine the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits and other evidence in the record “in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Samples on Behalf of Samples v. Atlanta, 846 F.2d 1328, 1330 (11th Cir. 1988).

         As the Supreme Court held in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), the moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the nonexistence of a triable issue of fact. If the movant is successful on this score, the burden of production shifts to the non-moving party who must then come forward with “sufficient evidence of every element that he or she must prove.” Rollins v. Techsouth, 833 F.2d 1525, 1528 (11th Cir. 1987).

         The non-moving party may not simply rest on the pleadings, but must use affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or other admissible evidence to demonstrate that a material fact issue remains to be tried. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Castleberry v. Goldome Credit Corp., 408 F.3d 773, 785-86 (11th Cir. 2005).

In civil actions filed by inmates, federal courts must distinguish between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord deference to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgement stage.

Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530 (2006). Conclusory allegations based on subjective beliefs are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact. See, e.g., Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs., Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001).

         The Court must view the evidence and inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Earley v. Champion Int'l Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1990). But, “when opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Morton v. Kirkwood, 707 F.3d 1276, 1284 (11th Cir. 2013) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986) (stating that to defeat summary judgment “there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff”). “The nonmovant need not be given the benefit of every inference but only of every reasonable inference.” Brown v. City of Clewiston, 848 F.2d 1534, 1540 n. 12 (11th Cir.1988) (“The summary judgment standard requires that we resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of the non-moving party, but it does not require us to resolve all doubts in such a manner.”).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Dr. Teitelbaum argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on Dr. Paylan's remaining claims, which include the following: (1) § 1983 claim for fabrication of evidence; (2) § 1983 claim for an unlawful Marchman Act; (3) § 1983 claim for an unlawful search and seizure of Dr. Paylan's belongings; (4) a state-law claim for false imprisonment; and (5) a state-law claim for fraud. He contends that he is entitled to summary judgment on the three remaining § 1983 claims because he was not a state actor under § 1983, because he did not violate any of Dr. Paylan's rights, and because he is entitled to qualified immunity. Dr. Teitelbaum also argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on Dr. Paylan's two state-law claims because Dr. Paylan has failed to prove the necessary elements for false imprisonment and fraud. (ECF No. 120.)

         Dr. Paylan argues that she is entitled to summary judgment because there is no dispute that Dr. Teitelbaum wrote three false reports, fabricated evidence, solicited Dr. Myers to submit a false report, and used fabricated evidence and false reports to support his decision to institute a Marchman Act despite the fact that statutory criteria was not met. (ECF No. 122.)

         For the reasons discussed below, the undersigned finds that Dr. Teitelbaum's motion for summary judgment is due to be granted and Dr. Paylan's motion for summary judgment is due to be denied.

         A. Dr. Teitelbaum acted under color of state law and, therefore, may be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if he violated Dr. Paylan's federal or constitutional rights.

         Dr. Teitelbaum argues that while he was interacting with Dr. Paylan, he was not acting pursuant to any power he possessed by state authority and instead acted as an independent examiner. Further, Dr. Teitelbaum argues that PRN referred Dr. Paylan to Dr. Teitelbaum and that his involvement with Dr. Paylan was “merely coincidental” to his state employment. Accordingly, Dr. Teitelbaum argues that he was not a state actor acting ...


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