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Suicide victim’s family recovers $400,000 for psychiatric malpractice

A 33-year-old female was voluntarily admitted into a psychiatric hospital after she attempted to commit suicide. During her hospitalization, she again tried to kill herself but was unsuccessful. Shortly before the woman was scheduled to be discharged from the hospital, the staff psychiatrist signed papers to have the woman involuntarily committed because he determined that she was a threat to her own safety. Nevertheless, he authorized her discharge five days later. One day after her release, the woman was found dead in her car with the engine running in the garage.

Edmund J. Scanlan’s investigation of the tragedy revealed that the woman was discharged from the hospital because her medical insurance only provided coverage for 30-days of hospitalization. Accordingly, he filed a psychiatric malpractice action against the psychiatrist, arguing that he was negligent for releasing the woman when she presented an obvious risk of suicide. The case went to trial but resulted in a hung jury. Rather than face Scanlan in a second trial, the psychiatrist’s insurer settled the case for $400,000.

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