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New York Court Discusses Establishing a Psychiatrist’s Liability for the Actions of a Patient

Many people struggle with mental health issues that lead to self-harm. Fortunately, psychiatrists can often offer treatment that prevents people from fatally injuring themselves. If a patient that sought mental health care subsequently takes their own life, their treating provider may be held accountable. In a recent New York opinion, a court discussed what a plaintiff must prove to establish liability for the actions of a psychiatric patient in a matter in which the plaintiff was ultimately denied recovery. If you suffered losses due to a negligent psychiatrist, it is smart to speak to a Rochester medical malpractice attorney about your rights.

The Factual Background

It is reported that the decedent visited the defendant’s hospital in November 2015 with scratches on his arms. The decedent advised the treating physicians that he tried to end his life via suicide. He was observed for 20 hours and then released. He died by suicide the following morning. The decedent’s estate then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. Following the completion of discovery, the defendant moved to dismiss the case via summary judgment. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Establishing a Psychiatrist’s Liability for the Actions of a Patient

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it explained that in order to hold a doctor or their employer accountable for harm resulting from the behavior of a psychiatric patient who was released, when their release is a matter of professional judgment, the plaintiff must prove that the doctor’s decision to release the patient was something less than a professional medical decision that was founded upon a thorough examination of the patient.

Further, a defendant seeking dismissal via summary judgment in a medical malpractice case bears the burden of establishing that they did not depart from the accepted and good practice of medicine or that any departure did not cause the plaintiff harm. In the subject case, the court found that the defendant met its burden of proof by producing the affidavit of a board-certified psychiatrist who opined that the treating physician made a reasonable decision in compliance with the standard of care when she determined the decedent no longer presented an immediate risk of harming himself. In response, though, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendant breached the standard of care or proximately caused the decedent’s harm. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Talk to a Trusted Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Doctors have a duty to prevent their patients from suffering harm, even harm that may be self-inflicted, and if they breach their duty, they should be held accountable. If you were harmed by a negligent psychiatrist, you should talk to an attorney about your right to pursue medical malpractice claims. The trusted Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your potential claims and help you seek any damages you may be owed. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 833-200-2000 to set up a meeting.

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