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Prisoner assaulted by State psychiatrist cannot hold the state responsible

In Langton v. State of Michigan, decided December 30, 2011, the Court of Appeals reversed the Court of Claims and ruled that Langton could not hold the State responsible for assault and battery committed by its psychiatrist on Langton while incarcerated.  Although it is well-documented medical malpractice for a psychiatrist to initiate a sexual or romantic relationship with a patient, and although the psychiatrist's letters revealed a clearly inappropriate "romantic" interest, and although the psychiatrist was convicted of criminal sexual conduct, the Court held that the psychiatrist's employer was not responsible for the wrongful conduct.

Although the State has immunity for many acts of its employees, it does not enjoy immunity for negligently providing "medical care or treatment."  The Court rejected the State's claim that the psychiatrist's misconduct did not occur in the context of providing medical care, yet it held that the State was not responsible for this misconduct.  The reasoning of the opinion is not entirely clear, but it seemed to be based on the concept that the State could only be responsible for the psychiatrist's malpractice if it negligently failed to respond to knowledge of the employee's intentional acts of misconduct.

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