Discontinuance in Psychiatric Malpractice Case

Discontinuance in Psychiatric Malpractice Case

Senior Trial Partner Michael A. Sonkin, Partner Nicole S. Barresi, and Senior Associate Richard Wolf secured a discontinuance in a psychiatric malpractice case. The patient presented to the Emergency Department with suspicion for an overdose of benzodiazepines.  On the second day of her admission, our client, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, performed a psychiatric consult to evaluate for depression.  It was his assessment that the patient appeared to be depressed but did not present any suicidal ideation at that time.  He recommended that the patient follow up with out patient psychiatric treatment for medication adjustment and to potentially augment her treatment with a mood stabilizer.   

Nine days later, our client was consulted again to evaluate for benzodiazepine withdrawal.  He found that the patient was not actively illustrating any overt signs and symptoms of an active benzodiazepine withdrawal at that moment, but that she could benefit from an Addiction Medicine consult to rule out benzodiazepine dependence. 

Approximately 14 hours later, the patient absconded from her room, left the hospital, and either fell or jumped approximately 20 feet from a wall or cliff on the hospital grounds, and sustained serious physical injuries. 

The plaintiff commenced an action alleging that our client failed to timely and properly examine the patient, assess her mental status, and prevent her from leaving her room and falling.  We moved for summary judgment dismissing the Complaint insofar as asserted against our client. We submitted, inter alia, an expert affirmation from a psychiatrist with over 45 years of experience.  Our expert opined that the care and treatment rendered by our client was at all relevant times consistent with good and accepted standards of medical practice, and that the allegedly negligent actions or inactions of our client were not a proximate cause of, or a substantial factor in causing, any of the patient's claimed injuries.

 In response, the plaintiff's counsel informed us that they would not be opposing our motion for summary judgment and agreed to stipulate to discontinue the action insofar as asserted against our client. Although codefendants declined to sign the stipulation of discontinuance, the Court so-ordered the stipulation, thus discontinuing the action insofar as asserted against our client.