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Supreme Court unanimously grants relief to inmate in claim against prison psychiatrist

Mark Langton sued the State, arguing that it should be held responsible for the unprofessional behavior of the prison psychiatrist who imposed sexual and romantic advances on Langton during treatment. The psychiatrist was ultimately convicted of 2d degree CSC and Langton filed a civil suit.  He obtained a default judgment against the doctor and then followed up with a civil action against the State.  He argued that the State should have vicarious responsibility for the assaults and malpractice of its employee-physician.  He filed an Affidavit of Merit from another psychiatrist, alleging that the romantic and sexual advances made by the doctor during treatment were a "significant boundary violation."

The State aggressively defended the action, arguing that it should not bear responsibility for the criminal behavior of its employee.  The Court of Appeals noted that the State does not have immunity for medical malpractice but ruled that it was not liable for the psychiatrist's actions because it was immune from "vicarious liability."  The court suggested that Langton needed to prove independent negligence by the State in failing to intervene to protect Langton, in order to hold the State responsible for the psychiatrist's actions.

In what may be the first win of the last 10 months for an injury victim in the Michigan Supreme Court, the high court unanimously over-turned the Court of Appeals holding.  In a one paragraph order, the Supreme Court pointed out that the State is responsible for its' agents provision of medical care and that no evidence of independent negligence must be provided to enforce the State's vicarious liability.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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