Misdiagnosis Sends Disabled Grandfather to Jail, He Claims
SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - A new Kaiser patient with multiple physical disabilities was misdiagnosed with severe mental impairment, resulting in assault and detention by police, according to the man’s suit.
Michael Cameron Shuts sues City of Scotts Valley, Police Officers Johnson, Lopez, and Doe, Kaiser Permanente, and Tyler Hensel M.D., for unlawful arrest, excessive force, Americans with Disabilities Act violations, civil rights violations, Bane’s Act violations, assault and battery, false imprisonment, medical malpractice, patient abandonment, conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.
Shuts, a 60-year-old grandfather, says he came to his initial evaluation appointment with his Kaiser primary care physician, defendant Hensel, with a history of two heart attacks that required four stents, a stroke, chronic pain, multiple spine surgeries including an artificial disk and 3-level fusion, diabetes, AFIB, asthma, high blood pressure and depression associated with his medical conditions.
Defendant Kaiser had previously denied Shuts’ request to maintain his former psychiatric health care until he had fully transitioned to Kaiser, so during his evaluation with Hensel, he asked for a psych referral regarding concerns about his cognitive ability due to his stroke, according to the action. He was also given a mental health questionnaire to fill out.
Shuts says that if Hensel had asked him about his responses to the questionnaire, he would have learned that he was not sleeping due to night sweats, he was eating less due to his diabetes, and he was not participating in his hobbies due to his limiting physical conditions. Hensel asked him about suicide, and Shuts said he had thought of it in the past but that he had been in counseling and on medication and was “feeling much better,” according to the action, so Hensel said he was going to get his psychiatric referral and left Shuts in the examining room.
Instead, Hensel called for police assistance with a 5150 involuntary mental health hold and left Shuts waiting for an extended amount of time in the exam room, the suit claims. Shuts says he was attempting to leave to pick up his granddaughter from school when the three police officers arrived. They did not identify themselves, but instead “for no clear reason or need, gang-tackled Mr. Shuts. They shoved him back through the exam room door. Then, using great physical force and the collective weight of their bodies, they body slammed the 60-year-old disabled man to the concrete exam room floor face down without giving any further verbal commands,” according to the suit.
No one had told him about the 5150 hold or read him his rights regarding the hold, Shuts says, and his doctor never returned to talk with him. The officers wrenched his arms as they placed handcuffs on him unnecessarily tight. “Additionally, Mr. Shuts was not cuffed in the conventional manner used by law enforcement, either behind or in front. He was cuffed so that he could not rotate his wrists, and his hands were cuffed high between his shoulder blades and left that way,” as he was marched out of the facility and put in the police car, the suit alleges, and the cuffs were not loosened until paramedics arrived to evaluate him. Instead of being taken to a psychiatric facility, Shuts says he was taken to jail, until he was released four or five hours later under his own recognizance. No charges were filed against him, Shuts says.
The treatment of Shuts “fits into a well established pattern at Kaiser Permanente. Within the past several years the Kaiser Permanente network has been repeatedly made aware of gross deficiencies regarding its failure to provide adequate psychiatric/mental health services. Some examples of these deficiencies and notices include but are not limited to the highest fine of a health care network in California’s history – $4,000,000 – for failure to provide adequate mental health services; successive California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) agency findings of deficient access to mental health care in 2013 (the year of the fine), 2015 and again in 2017; a recent statewide walkout of Kaiser Permanente’s own mental health staff for failing to provide adequate resources for mental health care within its own network, and numerous patient suicides attributed to lack of care and adequate resources,’ the suit claims.
After the assault, Shuts was diagnosed with a concussion, nerve damage to both hands, facial and scalp contusions, severe shoulder and elbow injuries, contusions, cuts and persistent numbness in his arms and hands, and emotional trauma, as well as exacerbation of and setbacks to his recovery from his pre-existing conditions, according to the action.
Shuts seeks actual and compensatory damages, statutory damages and penalties, declaratory and injunctive relief, exemplary and punitive damages against the non-government defendants, and legal costs.
Shuts is represented by Diane K. Vaillancourt in Santa Cruz, and Jonathan Che Gettleman and Elizabeth Caballero of Caballero & Gettleman Inc., also in Santa Cruz.