Psychiatric clinic may be liable for rampage

By Correy Stephenson

The Daily Record Newswire

A mental health professional and psychiatric clinic can be held liable for a former patient's shooting rampage, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled.

The patient entered his therapist's office and began shooting. He killed a doctor and a patient and wounded several others in a group therapy session before killing himself.

An injured patient brought suit against the clinic and the doctors, alleging they were liable for common-law medical malpractice for failing to warn her of or protect her from a threat.

She claimed the gunman had made threatening statements and come to the defendants' office with a gun on a prior occasion.

A jury found for the plaintiff, but the defendants appealed. They argued that a state statute abrogated the plaintiff's claim.

An appellate court reversed a denial of their motion for a directed verdict.

But the supreme court disagreed.

"[The statute] is not comprehensive and does not cover all the details of a mental health professional's duty to provide reasonable care.

"In fact, the statutory language is expressly limited to warning or protecting third persons under very limited circumstances, i.e., when (1) a patient makes a threat of physical violence, (2) the threat is against a reasonably identifiable third person, and (3) the patient has the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threat."

Published: Thu, Apr 29, 2010

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