An ex-disc jockey who convicted of setting fire to a car in 2012 and arrested again last April for terroristic threatening is suing the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña and three others after he was allegedly chemically restrained at the Commonwealth Health Center without his consent and over his objection.
Aside from CHCC and Muna, Aziz Peter Mettao also named as defendants in the lawsuit CHCC employees Dr. Martin Philip Rohringer, Dr. Ashebir T. Chekol, and registered nurse Joshua Tanghal. Mettao, through counsel Jeanne H. Rayphand of the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc., is also suing 10 unnamed CHC employees.
He is suing for alleged violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for deprivation of liberty without due process of law, violation of the CNMI Constitution for unreasonable seizure, violation of Involuntary Commitment Act, and violation of Patient’s Rights Act.
Mettao is demanding $100,000 in compensatory damages.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, he asked the court to direct Muña to provide ongoing education and training for all CHC physicians, nurses, security personnel and staff who have direct patient contact. Rayphand said the training should address persons’ rights regarding involuntary detention and commitment and involuntary medication, the Involuntary Commitment Act, and the Patient’s Rights Act, that the training should be provided within 30 days for all current CHCC employees, within 30 days of initial employment for new employees, and at least once per year for all employees.
According to Rayphand in the complaint, CNMI police officers brought Mettao to CHC’s emergency room on Saipan on Nov. 10, 2019, at 1:30pm, yet the officers did not file an application for a 72-hour emergency detention.
At 2pm that same day, Rayphand said, Rohringer signed an “application for psychiatric evaluation under the ‘72-hour emergency detention’ provision, Involuntary Civil Commitment Act of 1992.” She said Rohringer, as the attending physician, filled out the form stating that he examined Mettao and certified “that he has a mental disorder, is in imminent danger to self or others, and is in need of immediate admission for up to 72 hours of evaluation, treatment, and care.”
Rayphand said that before 2:30pm that same day, Nov. 10, Rohringer examined Mettao and determined that he was not suicidal nor homicidal. She said the doctor also concluded that Mettao was “gravely disabled” and admitted him involuntarily to the CHC psychiatric ward at 2:30pm that day.
Rayphand said that at 4pm, another physician, Chekol, assessed the plaintiff and deemed him well-oriented but looks hyperactive and talkative. Mettao allegedly told Chekol that he did not want to take any medications from CHC.
Rayphand said that Tanghal and 1 to 10 other unnamed CHC employees later administered medications to Mettao over his objection. The lawyer said the medications that Tanghal injected into Mettao were Haldol, Ativan, and Benadryl.
At 10:15am that same day, Nov. 12, Mettao was seen by Dr. Justin T. Van Der Meid and that the plaintiff adamantly refused initiating a trial of any medication.
Later at 12:15pm, Meid discharged Mettao after consulting with his family members who were demanding his release.
Rayphand said Meid determined that Mettao was not exhibiting acute safety concerns that might warrant further involuntary hospitalization and that plaintiff would be able to care for himself.
Rayphand said Muña was aware of a pattern of conduct by CHC employees that deprived persons with mental illness of their right to liberty without due process as well as their rights under the Involuntary Civil Commitment Act and the Patient’s Rights Act.
The lawyer said Muña failed to provide adequate training to CHC personnel to prevent conduct that resulted in Mettao being deprived of his right to be secure in his person and to not be deprived of liberty without due process, his rights under the Involuntary Civil Commitment Act, and his rights under the Patient’s Rights Act.
She said Mettao’s claims were presented to the CNMI Attorney General on April 1, 2020, but the OAG denied them last May 20.