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Stuebig v. Hammel

August 18, 1983

LAURENCE STUEBIG, A/K/A LAWRENCE STUEBIG, BY HIS GUARDIAN, MARIA CAROLE HECKMANN, 251 N. BENT RD., WYNCOTE, PENNSYLVANIA 19095, APPELLANT
v.
ROBERT J. HAMMEL, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR OF FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND BERNARD J. WILLIS, M.D., ACTING SUPERINTENDENT AND CLINICAL DIRECTOR OF FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND JOHN P. SHOVLIN, M.D., 20 DENDRICK LANE, CARBONDALE, PA. AND JOHN M. FITZGERALD, DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL SERVICES, FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND FRANCIS TRUMAN, CAPTAIN OF THE GUARDS, FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND CHARLES A. ZELLER, M.D., FORMER SUPERINTENDENT OF FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND H. PROPST, M.D., 505 HIGH STREET, HONESDALE, PA. DISMISSED 2/28/80 AND VINCENT P. COVOLESKIE, D.S.C., FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND G. J. SALKO, M.D., WHITES CROSSING, PA. AND WILLIAM H. HORAN, M.D., FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND P. POWELL, M.D., FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND HERBERT L. OWNES, M.D., FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND DR. FERRARO, FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA. AND J. PAUL HURST, M.D., FARVIEW STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, WAYMART, PA.



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Opinion OF THE COURT

Per Curiam.

In 1941, Laurence Stuebig was charged with burglary with the intent to steal several boxes of candy from a railroad car. The Quarter Sessions Court of Philadelphia County found Stuebig not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered that he be detained and treated at Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Although Stuebig spent thirty-five years at Farview, his status as a mental incompetent was never reviewed and he was never treated for a psychiatric condition, which by now is incurable. In December, 1975, Stuebig was released from Fairview, and shortly thereafter the Montgomery County Court of Appeals appointed Marie Carole Heckmann as his guardian.

Stuebig, by his guardian, filed a civil rights action for damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that the defendant, who were officials at Farview during at least a portion of Stuebig's commitment, had violated his due process rights by neither releasing nor treating him. The district court held that, although three of the defendants named in the complaint had violated Stuebig's constitutional rights, they were immune from personal liability for damages:*fn1 they neither knew nor reasonably should have known tht their failure to supervise various therapeutic programs at Farview would violate plaintiff's rights. The district court also found that the defendants did not maliciously intend to cause Stuebig injury. Chief Judge Nealon in two carefully crafted opinions determined that he was bound by recent Supreme Court decisions outlining the good-faith or qualified immunity defense of state officials sued for damages in their individual capacities. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S. Ct. 2727, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 50 U.S.L.W. 4815 (1982); Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 102 S. Ct. 2452, 73 L. Ed. 2d 28, 50 U.S.L.W. 4681 (1982).

While we are greatly moved by Mr. Stuebig's plight, we are persuaded that the district court did not err in applying the law of qualified immunity. Accordingly, the ...


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