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Pyschiatric patient can sue her doctor for malpractice separate from statutory definition of third-party violence rules

One of Reuven Bar-Levav's clients carried a gun into a group therapy session and shot the psychiatrist and several patients.  One of the surviving wounded, Elizabeth Dawe, filed a malpractice claim against the psychiatrist, arguing that he had breached the standard of care in assigning the victim and the shooter to the same therapy group.  After a jury awarded Dawe a verdict against the psychiatrist's estate, his malpractice insurer argued that statutory limitations on a doctor's responsibility for third-party harm precluded entry of judgment for the victim.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals agreed and overturned the decision. 

On appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, in a rare unanimous opinion, the Justices held that the victim's claim for common law malpractice survived the adoption of the statute limiting liability for third-party violence.  The Court elucidated the distinction between liability exposure to non-patient third-parties resulting from foreseeable patient violence, and the common law fiduciary duty to the doctor's own patients.  To the extent that the victim in this case established a breach of the common law duty by her own doctor, the victim's claim arose outside of, and was not limited by, the third-party statute.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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