RENÉE C. BYER / rbyer@sacbee.com

A judge in Nevada has dismissed a lawsuit over Nevada's treatment of mentally ill patients in which James Flavy Coy Brown was chief plaintiff.

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit in Nevada 'patient dumping' case

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 - 2:38 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 - 4:10 pm

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a civil lawsuit brought by a patient bused to Sacramento from a Nevada state psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital last February discharged James Flavy Coy Brown via Greyhound bus to Sacramento, a city where he had no family, friends or support system. After reporting his story, The Sacramento Bee launched a series of investigations that found the hospital had shipped about 1,500 psychiatric patients to states across the nation in a five year period. Many of those patients were sent to cities where they had no treatment or support.

In the wake of The Bee’s reports, Rawson-Neal lost its accreditation and has been the focus of ongoing internal and external reviews.

Sacramento attorney Mark Merin filed a class-action lawsuit against Nevada on behalf of Brown and hundreds of other patients bused from the hospital, contending the practice was a form of “patient dumping” and violated their civil rights.

In dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge James C. Mahan ruled that the state of Nevada didn’t compel Brown to get on a bus to Sacramento. Instead, he wrote, Nevada merely gave him the means to leave: a bus ticket.

“The coercive power of the state was not imposed on (Brown),” wrote Mahan, a judge in the district of Nevada. “There was no direct command from an individual bearing state coercive authority, nor threat of punishment if (Brown) did not travel to Sacramento.”

The state has a right to institute a busing policy that “best alllocate(s) scarce financial resources,” he wrote.

Merin said he and Brown are disappointed with the ruling and considering their options, including an appeal or filing a new lawsuit in state court. He noted Brown was heavily medicated when he got on the bus and had discharge papers from the hospital telling him to call 911 when he arrived in Sacramento.

“We’re certainly not giving it up,” he said.

Nevada health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another lawsuit brought by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office against Nevada that seeks reimbursement for the cost of caring for patients bused from Rawson-Neal is still pending in San Francisco Superior Court.


Call The Bee’s Phillip Reese, (916) 321-1137.

Read more articles by Phillip Reese



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