Hospital Found Negligent for Failing to Adequately Treat Potentially Violent Patient
A North Carolina hospital has paid $11.5 million to the two surviving minor children of a man who murdered his wife, stepdaughter and baby daughter then forced his two surviving kids to live in an apartment with the corpses before he finally killed himself. Mr. Maggiano who represented the surviving children stated that this was one of the most emotional cases and tragic family outcomes due to medical malpractice he has dealt with in his entire career.
Under confidentiality agreement which was part of the settlement, Mr. Maggiano and his trial team agreed that they would not identify the litigants.
The basis of the lawsuit was that the behavioral health facility involved failed to adequately treat the father or warn his wife after he told emergency room staff that he was thinking about killing her on two separate occasions.
Hours after he was sent home from his second ER visit, the distraught husband and father suffocated his wife and his 1 year old daughter and stabbed his 13 year old stepdaughter to death. Then he locked their bodies in a bedroom and continued to live in the apartment with his 2 year old son and 10 year old daughter.
After placing a concerning message on FaceBook and with a family member concerned about the lack of communication from the spouse, police arrived at the apartment to make inquiry of his wife at the request of the concerned relative. The husband proceeded to open the door and told the police that he would go and get his wife. He then went back into the apartment. He came from a room with $800.00 which he gave to his daughter and told her he loved her. He then put his revolver to his head and told her to go outside with her brother. Once outside a shot was fired and then a second shot. He killed himself by a fatal bullet to his head. No one else was injured.
A law suit was brought for four claims of wrongful death and for the two surviving children’s severe post traumatic stress.
Mr. Maggiano established that the psychiatric facility had a responsibility to warn the wife that she could be in danger following the statements made by her husband to an assessment nurse that he wanted to kill her. Discovery in the case showed that the hospital in fact had a policy which provided for a Duty to Warn known potential victims when an imminent danger to their wellbeing is apparent.
Mr. Maggiano contended through leading experts he presented that the hospital policy was representative of the accepted standard of care for the physician and nurse treating the husband to follow. Mr. Maggiano at the deposition of the evaluating Emergency Room Psychiatrist was able to obtain an admission from him that the policy indeed set forth the accepted national standard and the hospital and staff were duty bound to follow it. He also admitted that the wife was never notified.
Mr. Maggiano contended that the bizarre discharge statement by the psychiatrist that the distraught husband who expressed a desire to kill his wife and admitted to a physically and verbally abusive marriage and guns at his home, never the less “endorsed the capacity to refrain from harming himself or others and seek marital counseling.” Mr. Maggiano asked the psychiatrist and nursing staff,
“Did you ever consider what he would be walking back into?”
” Did you ever consider that perhaps his wife was entitled to at least a phone call before you discharged him? “
“Was his wife prepared to endorse marriage counseling? “
“Isn’t it true that you do not know the answers because you chose not to investigate and not to warn his wife. “
“Would you agree Doctor that the outcome in this case was sadly predictable, obvious and preventable. “
A trust has been set up for the benefit of the surviving children which promises to protect them for the balance of their lives.