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September 18, 2023

Private entities and employees of private entities are typically not within the ambit 42 U.S.C. §1983 for the purposes of filing violation of civil rights complaints

The Plaintiff in this action appealed a federal district court’s dismissal of her 42 U.S.C. §1983 civil rights complaint. Plaintiff had sued a private hospital and a number of its employees [Respondents] for allegedly for violating her constitutional rights while involuntarily hospitalizing and medicating her.

A federal district court had dismissed Plaintiff's amended complaint as she failed to plead that Respondents were acting under color of state law and denied further leave to amend her complaint as futile.*

Reviewing a dismissal of a cause of action for failure to state a claim the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said it assumed "all well-pleaded allegations in the operative complaint are true and draw every reasonable inference in the plaintiff’s favor," citing N.Y. Pet Welfare Ass’n, Inc. v. City of New York, 850 F.3d 79. 

Further, observing that Plaintiff brought this action pro se, the Circuit Court pointed out that although pro se filings “must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest,” a pro se complaint "must still state a 'plausible claim for relief' to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss."

Agreeing with the district court that Plaintiff’s complaint, which was premised on alleged constitutional violations by private parties, failed to demonstrate that Respondents were acting under color of state law, the Circuit Court explained that state action “requires both the exercise of some right or privilege created by the State and the involvement of a person who may fairly be said to be a State actor.” As a result, opined the Circuit Court, "a §1983 claim against a private actor will usually fail because private actors do not act under the color of state law, no matter how 'discriminatory or wrongful' their conduct might be."

The Circuit Court's decision notes that Plaintiff did not allege that the Defendants were state actors and "did not press any meaningful argument to that end on appeal". Although Plaintiff focused on the alleged severity and illegality of the Respondents' alleged misconduct, the Circuit Court said "even egregious acts cannot form the basis of a §1983 claim unless the defendant is also acting under color of state law."

Accordingly, the Circuit Court held the district court correctly dismissed Plaintiff's complaint and so doing "with prejudice" was also proper.

 * See Alicea v. Yang, No. 21-CV-1638 (KAD), 2022 WL 2527994.

Click HERE to access the Second Circuit Court's decision posted on the Internet.

 

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