PSYCHIATRIC MALPRACTICE – REPRESENTATIVE CASES

G & S Obtains Dismissal of Claims Against Court Appointed Psychiatrist - 2016

Plaintiff sued our assured psychiatrist and other defendants asserting civils rights violations in connection with her role in a Family Court neglect proceeding which culminated in his loss of parental custody. Our client was appointed by the court to perform a forensic psychiatric evaluation of the plaintiff. Plaintiff asserted claims against our client for violating his civil rights pursuant to 42 USC 1983 of the 14th Amendment as well as claims for defamation.

Plaintiff alleged that the psychiatric report submitted by our client submitted to the Family Court was wrongful and defamatory and violated his civil rights since no psychiatrist could perform an psychiatric examination and make a valid diagnosis in the short period of time our assured spent with him. We moved to dismiss on the grounds that our client was entitled to judicial immunity for her work performed in furtherance of the Family Court appointment as a psychiatric evaluator of the plaintiff. We also argued that the report in no way deprived the plaintiff of any rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment including the right to life, liberty or property. She simply submitted a thorough report with recommendations as was directed by the court and the Department of Social Services. We also argued that the pleading requirements of defamation were not met.

While the motions were pending, the plaintiff kept communicating directly with the defendants bypassing their attorneys. Upon application, the court held a contempt hearing and issued an order directing plaintiff to cease all improper communications with the defendants. When the plaintiff failed to cease these communications, upon application, the Court held a further contempt hearing whereupon it used its discretionary power to dismiss the plaintiff’s case with prejudice.

 

Gordon & Silber Obtains Defense Verdict for a Treating Psychiatrist and Hospital Alleged to have Prematurely Discharged Suicidal Patient Who Committed Suicide Four Days After Discharge.

Type of Case: Psychiatric malpractice. Alleged negligent treatment and discharge of suicidal patient leading to plaintiff's death.

Venue: New York Supreme Court, Westchester County

Background Facts: In this psychiatric malpractice action, the plaintiff presented to our assured hospital after making three separate attempts to take his own life. The admitting psychiatrist involuntarily committed him. Plaintiff's wife alleged that he received no treatment or therapy over the next 48 hours, but was nevertheless discharged after an inadequate work up by our client, the treating psychiatrist, who had met him for the first time on the day of discharge. Four days after being discharged, the plaintiff committed suicide, at home, after ingesting pills and alcohol.

Special Problems: The decedent's wife testified that our clients discharged her husband without any consultation with her, and that she was personally opposed to the discharge. There also evidence that decedent had not received any substantial treatment during his 48 hours at the hospital. Plaintiff's expert testified that our client committed a departure by failing to keep the him in the hospital in order to allow his medications to become effective so as to further treat and evaluate him. Finally, the nurse who gave the plaintiff a test for depression could not recall his contacts with the plaintiff and had difficulty describing how he performed the depression scale.

Our Strategy: We argued that our clients had no choice but to release the decedent, given that at the time of discharge, he no longer satisfied the standard for involuntary commitment - "an imminent danger to himself or others", where the decedent was himself seeking discharge. We highlighted to the jury our client, who came across as extremely knowledgeable and dedicated and who testified she thoroughly evaluated the decedent prior to discharging him. We also highlighted that she set up an out-patient clinic appointment the next day and placed him on appropriate medications. We called the social worker who met with the decedent prior to discharge and who contradicted the wife's claim she was opposed to the discharge and that she was not consulted with. The social worker also confirmed that the decedent's condition had significantly improved. Finally, we called an expert with impeccable credentials who testified that our client had no choice but to discharge the decedent.

Result: Despite plaintiff's counsel requesting $1,750,000 in damages from the jury, the jury returned an unanimous defense verdict after only 2 ½ hours of deliberation.

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Dismissal of Complaint – Failure to Diagnose
Appellate Division, First Department, 805 N.Y.S.2d 332

Our client was sued for failing to diagnose the cause of her pain and agitation and in prescribing medication which masked her symptoms and delayed her eventual diagnosis causing her death. In a decision of great importance to psychiatrists, the appellate court affirmed the dismissal, revitalizing and expanding upon a 20 year old precedent which provides that, if a psychiatrist is requested by a medical physician to do a consult with regard to the patient's emotional condition, he will not be liable for failing to diagnose or make an appropriate referrals for medical conditions.

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Dismissal of Fraud Claim – Order Compelling Plaintiff to Replace Pseudonym with True Name New York Supreme Court, New York County

Plaintiff has alleged that our assured psychiatrist failed to diagnose her condition and mismanaged her transference phenomenon and fraudulently induced her into believing he was helping her and was not charging for his sessions. We moved to dismiss the cause of action for fraud and concealment pursuant to CPLR §3211(a)(7) and also requested an order directing plaintiff to amend the Complaint and replace the pseudonym "Jane Doe" with her true name.

The Court granted our motion finding plaintiff failed to demonstrate an anonymous caption was warranted notwithstanding the private and personal nature of the case. With regard to the fraud claim, the court agreed that it was "a mere regurgitation of the allegations of psychiatric malpractice," and therefore dismissal was warranted and that plaintiff failed to demonstrate the required pecuniary damage necessary for a fraud claim. The Court ordered the plaintiff to amend her Complaint and dismissed the fraud claim albeit with leave to re-plead it.

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Dismissal of Complaint – Breach of Confidentiality
New York Supreme Court, Sullivan County

We obtained summary judgment dismissing a complaint against a psychiatrist who was sued by a plaintiff with a lengthy history of drug and alcohol abuse. Our client, managed her medication and headed some trauma group sessions at a detoxification center. Plaintiff learned that a friend of hers at the center had become involved in a relationship with our client. After plaintiff allegedly discovered that her friend had learned confidential information from our client, she brought the within action claiming breach of confidentiality.

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Pending Motion to Dismiss – Failure to Diagnose
New York Supreme Court, Queens County

We are seeking summary judgment dismissing a complaint against a psychiatrist who was sued for failing to diagnose a stroke and sepsis. The decedent was treated and evaluated at a local hospital on three occasions for a potential stroke, diabetes and hypertension. On her third admission, she suffered a stroke and later died. Our client performed two psychiatric consultations during the second admission to evaluate any psychiatric component to the decedent's total medical picture. Our client found that the decedent exhibited depressive symptoms and recommended diagnostic procedures, to be performed by the medical team, to rule out various medical conditions such as stroke and recommended an anti-depressant.

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