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Debates Forum

Debates Forum

  1. Standard member Scriabin
    Done Asking
    05 Jun '09 23:52 / 1 edit
    I've been put unwillingly in the position of consulting an attorney over the question of whether to file suit against a psychologist for negligence in the death by suicide of one of her patients to whom I was related.

    The claim would be based on the theory that as the psychologist knew from the patient's mouth that he was a danger to himself, and also knew that he had just obtained a .38 cal pistol, and the patient failed to fulfill his promise to keep an appointment with the psychologist, it was negligence on her part not to have called the police. That she did not call the police led proximately to the death of the patient.

    For some background favorable to the potential defense, once she knew her patient had obtained a weapon and had said he would use it on himself, the psychologist consulted the psychiatrist in the case who prescribed medication. She also consulted other experts in the treatment and prevention of suicide. The experts consulted by the psychologist advised her that at some point adult patients must be taught to take responsibility for their own decisions. In this case, she was told the patient could be persuaded to agree to a group session with his parents and the psychologist at which he would surrender the weapon to his mother. The Thursday and Friday appointments were part of that agreement. The patient had never broken a previous commitment to the psychologist and had never lied to her previously.

    She made her decision not to call the police when the patient failed to show up at an agreed upon time on a Thursday, and again failed to keep a Friday appointment, saying he would come in the next day.

    Instead, the patient took his own life in the early hours of that Saturday.

    The questions for discussion are several. I prefer to present them one at a time and progress through them at the proper point in any discussion that ensues.

    1. Assuming the psychologist was legally negligent in failing to call the police, what should be the award against her in this case?

    Note that the only relief that can be granted is an award of money -- not for compensation, but only for pain and suffering caused the surviving parents and sister due to the death of the patient.

    Note, finally, that the jurisdiction in which the case would be tried before a jury is an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C., in fact, one of the most affluent areas in the US.

    I'm not going to argue about any of this.

    I'm just looking for thoughtful reactions,
  2. 06 Jun '09 05:07
    google for "duty to call police" only gets 7 hits.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=%22duty+to+call+police%22&aq=f&oq=&aqi=
  3. 06 Jun '09 05:09
    doubt there is a duty to call police if a psychiatric patient misses appointments. the gun notwithstanding, as possession of gun was likely not illegal and is not necessary for suicide.
  4. 06 Jun '09 05:12 / 1 edit
    just try, and see if the attorney offers to pick up the case. probably they'd only get paid if the case succeeds. their expenses for failed cases are likely to be paid by cases that do succeed. there might be an option to finance the case yourself, win or lose. doesn't hurt to consult, in any event. even to consult more than one attorney.
  5. 06 Jun '09 05:13
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    I've been put unwillingly in the position of consulting an attorney over the question of whether to file suit against a psychologist for negligence in the death by suicide of one of her patients to whom I was related.

    The claim would be based on the theory that as the psychologist knew from the patient's mouth that he was a danger to himself, and also kn ...[text shortened]... .

    I'm not going to argue about any of this.

    I'm just looking for thoughtful reactions,
    it sounds absurd to me and will never fly.I dont see a case for negligence.If someone is hell bent on killing themselves,they are going to succeed sooner or later.Usually,they dont discuss beforehand either.When they discuss it ,its usually a sign they are depressed ,upset and feel the need for attention,empathy,or sympathy.For lack of a better word its usually a bluff.Just saying he has a 38 does not mean the psychologist "knew" he had one.If he came into the office w/ it, held it to his head,etc,that would be a another matter.Sounds like the Dr. did what they were trained to do.Discussed it w/colleagues,changed the meds,and made another appointment.You said that they talked on friday. He probably stated he was fine and no longer suicidal and would be in.So whats the doctor to do?
  6. 06 Jun '09 05:16
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawyer#Client_intake_and_counseling_.28with_regard_to_pending_litigation.29

    Client intake and counseling (with regard to pending litigation)
    An important aspect of a lawyer's job is developing and managing relationships with clients (or the client's employees, if the lawyer works in-house for a government or corporation). The client-lawyer relationship often begins with an intake interview where the lawyer gets to know the client personally, discovers the facts of the client's case, clarifies what the client wants to accomplish, shapes the client's expectations as to what actually can be accomplished, begins to develop various claims or defenses, and explains his or her fees to the client.[35][36]
  7. 06 Jun '09 05:18
    "contingent fee". that's what i meant.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_fees

    ...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contingent_fee

    A contingent fee in the United States or conditional fee in England & Wales is any fee for services provided where the fee is only payable if there is a favourable result. In the law is defined as "[a] fee charged for a lawyer's services only if the lawsuit is successful or is favorably settled out of court...Contingent fees are usually calculated as a percentage of the client's net recovery."[1].

    In the English legal system is generally referred as No win no fee. Being this a conditional fee agreement between a law firm and a client. The usual form of this agreement is that the solicitor will take a law case on the understanding that if lost, no payment is done.

    However if the case is won the lawyer will be entitled to his normal fee based on hourly billing, plus a success fee. The success fee in England must be as a percentage no greater than 100% of the normal fee, provided this contrasts with the contingency fee in the USA which gives the successful attorney a percentage of the damages awarded in favor of his client.
  8. 06 Jun '09 05:25
    consult multiple attorneys anyway. it's more important than selecting a dentist. you may be stuck with your selection once they start spending real money. or have to pay the original attorney part of the eventual judgment if you decide to change attorneys before trial. the original attorney would be out his/her expenses, after all.
  9. 06 Jun '09 05:26
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    ...

    1. Assuming the psychologist was legally negligent in failing to call the police, what should be the award against her in this case?

    who would know except for a local attorney?
  10. 06 Jun '09 05:47 / 1 edit
    Couldn't the psychologist have been sued by the patient if she had called the police, for breaking Dr/Patient privacy? Sounds like she was between a rock and a hard place.
  11. 06 Jun '09 06:42
    I think you are wrong to seek compensation. She got him on medication and sort help from other specialists. Is she going to ring up the police every time an appointment is missed?? What would the police do anyway.. that would have saved his life?? They would either find him dead or be making a pointless call. Id tell your relatives to get f'ed and stop trying to blame other people.
  12. Subscriber FMF
    a.k.a. John W Booth
    06 Jun '09 06:58
    Originally posted by Redrocket
    I think you are wrong to seek compensation. She got him on medication and sort help from other specialists. Is she going to ring up the police every time an appointment is missed?? What would the police do anyway.. that would have saved his life?? They would either find him dead or be making a pointless call. Id tell your relatives to get f'ed and stop trying to blame other people.
    Joined : 06 Jun '09. Moves : 0

    Scriabin, I presume.

    You arguing with yourself? Making dreams come true.
  13. 06 Jun '09 07:00
    Originally posted by FMF
    Joined : 06 Jun '09. Moves : 0

    Scriabin, I presume.

    You arguing with yourself? Making dreams come true.
    No. Its 7ate9.
  14. 06 Jun '09 07:13
    The psychologist and psychiatrist did what they could keeping within the confines of dr/patient privilege, the family are being dicks sniffing around for some free money.
  15. 06 Jun '09 09:25
    It's sad that someone has taken his own life, but stop trying to blame others for it. He didn't feel like living anymore and shot himself. Respect that decision.