Malpractice case against jail medical staff may go to jury
Christopher Morden was housed in the Grand Traverse County jail after a misdemeanor conviction. Over the course of several weeks, the jail doctor and nurse charted his rapid decline into paranoid schizophrenia and "polysubstance abuse." The doctor and nurse continued and increased Morden's psychotropic medications, even after he demonstrated symptoms of grossly abnormal behavior and potential toxicity. When he suffered a seizure and died in the jail, his mother filed suit alleging that the medical staff was both negligent and "deliberately indifferent" to her son's condition--thus violating his Constitutional rights.
The Court of Appeals concluded that while the medical staff's actions did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation, Morden's mother had sufficiently documented a malpractice claim to have the evidence heard by a jury. The Court noted that even Morden's physician-experts did not support a claim that the staff acted with "deliberate indifference" in the sense of "intentionally or recklessly...disregarding an excessive risk to Morden's health and safety." Nevertheless, it overturned the lower court's dismissal of Morden's claim and allowed the malpractice case to go forward. The state law malpractice claim had been dismissed when it appeared--under prior interpretations of the statute of limitations--that the family had taken too long to file their wrongful death claim.