Zinermon v. Burch

LOCATION:United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

DOCKET NO.: 87-1965
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 494 US 113 (1990)
ARGUED: Oct 11, 1989
DECIDED: Feb 27, 1990

Facts of the case


Media for Zinermon v. Burch

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – February 27, 1990 in Zinermon v. Burch

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 87-1965 Zinermon against Burch will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Well, this case coming to us from the Eleventh Circuit concern so-called voluntary admissions to a Florida state mental hospital.

In a sense, it is related to the Washington against Harper decision announced this morning by Justice Kennedy.

The respondent signed forms requesting the admission and treatment at the hospital, and this was an apparent compliance with state statutes, but after his release he brought this action under 1983, a federal statute, against petitioners who were physicians and staff members of the hospital on the ground that they had deprived him of his liberty without due process of law.

The complaint alleged that they violated state law by admitting Burch as a voluntary patient when they knew or should have known that he was incompetent to give informed consent and that their failure to initiate Florida’s involuntary placement procedure denied him constitutionally guaranteed procedural safeguards.

The District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss under cases holding that a depravation of a protected interest caused by a state employee’s random and unauthorized conduct does not give rise to such a claim.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm that judgment.

We hold that the complaint was sufficient to state a claim under 1983 for violation of the plaintiff’s procedural due process rights.

The case is to which the District Court relied to, do not preclude respondent’s claim.

It is foreseeable that persons requesting treatment might be incapable of informed consent.

Justice O’Connor has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined therein by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Kennedy.