United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER NUNC PRO TUNC
M. GERRARD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on motions to dismiss filed by:
• Christina Johnson-Gunn, M.S., L.M.H.P. (filing 217);
• Children's Hospital and Medical Center
(Children's); Suzanne Haney, M.D.; Martin Harrington,
M.D.; Michael Vance; Kara Beals; and Sarita Ruma
(collectively, the "Children's Defendants")
(filing 249); and
• Alegent Creighton Clinic and Shashi Bhatia, M.B.B.S.
(the "Alegent Defendants") (filing 254).
Court will grant Johnson-Gunn's motion to dismiss, and
the Alegent Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court will
substantially grant the Children's Defendants' motion
to dismiss, with the exception of a single claim: a 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claim asserted against Haney.
plaintiff, Catherine Yang Wang Anderson (Wang Anderson) is
the mother of two girls, X.C.W. and Y.C.W. Filing 154 at 2.
Wang Anderson's husband, Bo Wang (Wang) is their father.
Filing 154 at 2. And the movants all provided health care
services to X.C.W. or Y.C.W.
Johnson-Gunn is a licensed mental health practitioner. Filing
154 at 17. Children's is an Omaha health care
organization that treated X.C.W., most pertinently in its
program for treatment of eating disorders. Filing 154 at 19,
54. Harrington is a psychiatrist and directed that program.
Filing 154 at 14. Haney is a physician who was, according to
Wang Anderson, employed by Douglas County or Project
Harmony. Filing 154 at 8. Vance is a psychologist
employed by Children's, and Beals is a licensed
independent mental health practitioner also employed by
Children's. Filing 154 at 15. Ruma is a licensed
independent mental health practitioner who also seems to have
been associated with Creighton. Filing 154 at 16;
see filing 154 at 106. Finally, Alegent was a
regional health care network that treated Y.C.W., and Bhatia
the psychiatrist who provided that treatment. Filing 154 at 15,
generally, Wang Anderson alleges that X.C.W. was unlawfully
made a ward of the State of Nebraska and held by the State
against her will. Filing 154 at 2. But it was Y.C.W. who
first drew the attention of authorities. According to Wang
Anderson, Y.C.W. had an "inappropriate" personal
relationship with a teacher at her high school because Y.C.W.
was permitted and encouraged to confide in him about personal
problems. Filing 154 at 24-28. Y.C.W. told him she had sexual
identity issues. Filing 154 at 35. Wang Anderson blames
Y.C.W.'s friendship with her teacher for a
"breakdown" in her own relationship with Y.C.W.,
who reported to school officials on October 8, 2013 that Wang
Anderson had threatened her. Filing 154 at 28.
on Y.C.W.'s report that she didn't feel safe going
home, sheriffs officers removed Y.C.W. from Wang
Anderson's residence and took her to Project Harmony for
a temporary foster placement. Filing 154 at 33. One of the
sheriffs deputies observed that when Wang Anderson answered
the door, she was wearing a rubber glove, and suspected that
Wang Anderson might be mentally ill. Filing 154 at 29-31.
Investigators from the Nebraska Department of Health and
Human Services (DHHS) went to the home that evening, and
reported hazardous conditions. Filing 154 at 35. So, after
X.C.W. went to school the next day, she was also placed in
the temporary custody of DHHS. Filing 154 at 36. X.C.W. and
Y.C.W. were placed with the same foster parent, and both
girls were evaluated at Project Harmony. Filing 154 at 34,
37, 43. Wang Anderson alleges that Haney was among those who,
at Project Harmony, were negligent in evaluating and treating
X.C.W. and Y.C.W. Filing 154 at 43.
juvenile proceeding was initiated in the Separate Juvenile
Court of Douglas County, Nebraska. Filing 154 at 44. The
petition alleged-Wang Anderson says wrongly-that X.C.W. and
Y.C.W. had been subjected to inappropriate discipline, not
provided with safe housing, deprived of proper parental care
and support, and that Wang Anderson had been seen acting in a
manner consistent with untreated mental health needs. Filing
154 at 44-45. An ex parte juvenile court order placed the
girls in the temporary custody of DHHS, then after a hearing,
the juvenile court continued DHHS's temporary custody.
Filing 154 at 45-46.
Anderson claims that both girls began to show signs of
"mental, emotional and physical distress" that went
unnoted and untreated. Filing 154 at 48-49. Both girls were
diagnosed with mental health disorders; Wang Anderson claims
the diagnoses were inaccurate. Filing 154 at 52. She also
alleges, as a basis for liability, that the girls' mental
health providers did not encourage them to communicate with
her, and that both girls were told they had a right to refuse
contact with her. Filing 154 at 53.
was admitted to a program at Children's for treatment of
eating disorders. Filing 154 at 54. Wang Anderson alleges
that Harrington and Beals assessed X.C.W. on intake and
departed from the standard of care when doing so. Filing 154
at 54. X.C.W. was partially hospitalized as part of the
eating disorders program-her time was split between the
hospital and her foster home. Filing 154 at 54-55. Wang
Anderson claims that X.C.W.'s participation in the
Children's eating disorders program actually worsened her
condition, and that she should have been treated without the
partial hospitalization. Filing 154 at 55, 59. She also
claims that Children's, Harrington, and Beals violated
her constitutional rights as a parent by admitting X.C.W.
without her permission. Filing 154 at 59, 61. And she alleges
that X.C.W. was prescribed medications without parental
consent. Filing 154 at 66.
suggestion of the girls' therapists at that time, DHHS
recommended to the juvenile court that all parental
visitation be therapeutic, and the juvenile court agreed.
Filing 154 at 57. Wang Anderson alleges that Y.C.W.'s
therapists approved "certain ways of life, behaviors or
actions that were inappropriate, morally corruptive, harmful
and detrimental. ..." Filing 154 at 58. Alegent and
Bhatia, she says, did not meet the standard of care in
treating Y.C.W., which "interfered with the familial
liberty interests of Wang Anderson and Y.C.W." Filing
154 at 66-67. She also claims that her right to visitation
with X.C.W. was interfered with by Children's,
Harrington, Vance, and Beals, damaging the parent-child
relationship. Filing 154 at 63-64. That visitation, she says,
"was essential to X.C.W.'s reunification with her
parents," and "family therapy was an
'integral' part of X.C.W.'s recovery from her
eating disorder and the standard of care for such a
disorder." Filing 154 at 71-72.
January 28, 2014, the Douglas County Attorney petitioned the
juvenile court to terminate Wang and Wang Anderson's
parental rights. Filing 154 at 75. The juvenile court
dismissed the petitions, but the girls were finally
adjudicated as being juveniles within the meaning of Neb.
Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3). Filing 154 at 81. And visitation
was ordered. Filing 154 at 82.
X.C.W. had been held out of school during her eating disorder
program. Filing 154 at 60. Her condition had deteriorated and
more intensive treatment was recommended. Filing 154 at 68.
She was placed at the Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and
Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Filing 154 at 73. Family therapy
was not provided at Laureate, allegedly because Harrington
and Beals failed to arrange it or inform Laureate of its
importance. Filing 154 at 75. Harrington and Beals were also
among those whom Wang Anderson alleges "failed to
provide Laureate Psychiatric staff with accurate or
sufficient information regarding X.C.W.'s parents."
Filing 154 at 76.
X.C.W. was discharged from Laureate and put into a new foster
placement, and she continued treatment for her eating
disorder at Children's Hospital in Omaha. Filing 154 at
83-84, 86. Sometimes, X.C.W.'s foster parents were unable
to take her to Children's, so transportation was provided
by Camelot Transportation. Filing 154 at 89. She rode with
other passengers, some adult men. Filing 154 at 89. According
to Wang Anderson, X.C.W. was "lured, sexually abused and
sexually exploited" by another passenger. Filing 154 at
90. Or, to be more specific, a juvenile court filing
indicates that the two had exchanged telephone numbers and
texted one another, and eventually X.C.W. sent him a nude
picture of herself and expressed romantic feelings toward
him. Filing 154 at 90.
around the same time,  the juvenile court entered an order
restricting Wang Anderson's and Wang's contact with
school officials. Filing 154 at 92. Wang Anderson alleges
that except for the failure of various officials and care
providers, including Beals, "to arrange necessary
services in a timely manner and to effectively communicate
information regarding the children to Wang Anderson and Dr.
Wang, this restriction on Wang Anderson's communication
would not have been imposed by the [juvenile court]."
Filing 154 at 93.
anorexia relapsed, and she was again hospitalized. Filing 154
at 91-92. In November 2014, she was placed at Remuda Ranch, a
treatment facility in Arizona. Filing 154 at 94. Wang
Anderson alleges that while at Remuda Ranch-and generally
throughout X.C.W.'s mental health treatment-X.C.W.'s
care providers didn't appropriately include X.C.W.'s
family in her therapy. Filing 154 at 96. Harrington and Beals
are among those singled out for failing to implement family
therapy. Filing 154 at 81, 86. Eventually, visitation was cut
off, allegedly in retaliation for Wang Anderson's efforts
to contact X.C.W. and participate in her treatment. Filing
154 at 99. Wang Anderson complains that Johnson-Gunn,
Harrington, Beals, Ruma, and Bhatia all "failed to
encourage X.C.W. or Y.C.W. to engage in visitation or other
contact with Wang Anderson." Filing 154 at 88. And she
says that the ongoing failure to provide family therapy,
attributable to Children's, Harrington, Beals, and Ruma
among others, was contrary to the standard of care and a
violation of X.C.W.'s constitutional rights. Filing 154
at 56, 106-07.
discharge from Remuda Ranch, X.C.W. was returned to her
previous foster placement. Filing 154 at 102. She was not,
over Wang Anderson's objection, placed with relatives,
despite a rule Wang Anderson says should have preferred such
a placement. Filing 154 at 100. Then, X.C.W. was permitted to
attend a Project Everlast meeting at which, Wang Anderson
alleges, X.C.W. was again "lured and sexually assaulted
or sexually exploited by an unknown adult male during and
after the lunch hour." Filing 154 at 108-09. Wang
Anderson says the incident wasn't discovered for a week,
and alleges that X.C.W. was injured. But no treatment was
provided, and no law enforcement investigation was initiated.
Filing 154 at 109-10. Harrington was among those that Wang
Anderson blames for failing "to have an appropriate
safety plan in place or communicate any such plan to Project
Everlast when X.C.W. attended the March 14, 2015
meeting." Filing 154 at 109.
period of time, "family therapy" was arranged, by
Harrington among others, that included X.C.W.'s foster
parent, rather than Wang Anderson or Wang, as the family
member. Filing 154 at 97. This was, according to Wang
Anderson, contrary to the standard of care and
unconstitutional. Filing 154 at 97. At around the same time,
several defendants, including Children's, Harrington,
Alegent, and Bhatia, allegedly refused to provide health
information about X.C.W. and Y.C.W. to Wang Anderson, despite
being asked for it. Filing 154 at 104.
in June 2015, Wang Anderson was permitted to participate in
family therapy with Johnson-Gunn. Filing 154 at 113. But Wang
Anderson was excluded again after she "tried to address
the pertinent and urgent topic of sex trafficking with
X.C.W." Filing 154 at 113. Specifically, Wang Anderson
alleges that she brought up "the seriousness and
life-threatening consequences of being sexually abused and
sexually trafficked with X.C.W. during a family therapy
session, to try to educate and protect her." Filing 154
at 119. But Johnson-Gunn asked Wang Anderson to leave, Wang
Anderson alleges, instead of "assist[ing] Wang Anderson
in discussing this important and germane topic with
X.C.W." Filing 154 at 119. Then, Wang Anderson alleges,
Johnson-Gunn "departed from the therapeutic standard of
care" by, allegedly, making "suggestions to X.C.W.
regarding how to safely or legally engage in prostitution,
shortly after X.C.W. had been sold for money." Filing
154 at 119.
January 2016, several officials and care providers-including
Harrington and Ruma-allegedly "agreed and decided to
terminate effective ongoing health care provided by
[Johnson-Gunn] for X.C.W. and ongoing services for the
family." Filing 154 at 120. Despite having accused
Johnson-Gunn of departing from the standard of care by
encouraging sex trafficking, Wang Anderson also
claims that removing Johnson-Gunn as the family therapist
harmed X.C.W., falling below the standard of care and
violating her constitutional rights. Filing 154 at 120.
X.C.W. was allowed by her foster parents-who lived in Blair,
Nebraska-to work part-time in a Blair restaurant. Filing 154
at 115-16. Sometimes she walked to and from work. Filing 154
at 115. Wang Anderson complained to various authorities about
instances in which X.C.W. was seen "scantily
dressed," and she alleges that various defendants
ignored "the attire X.C.W. was permitted ... to
wear" by her foster parents. Filing 154 at 115-16. And
according to Wang Anderson, X.C.W. arranged to be picked up
by a man who, again, "sexually abused and
exploited" her. Filing 154 at 115-16. Harrington, among
others, allegedly "failed to provide X.C.W. with timely