In December 2013, a Connecticut medical malpractice jury determined that a former Connecticut physician and his employers were negligent in the medical care and treatment that led to a patient committing suicide (the patient also killed his wife, but the jury’s verdict was in favor of the man’s estate only, the trial judge having determined ahead of trial that the murder was unrelated to the medical negligence claim). The medical malpractice jury awarded the man’s estate $8,008,500 in damages on January 5, 2014.
The Underlying Facts
On June 29, 2009, the 45-year-old man shot and killed his 43-year-old wife in their home and then shot himself in the head. The couple’s two daughters, ages 15 and 9, were in the home when the incident began but were unhurt; the 15-year-old escaped from the home and the 9-year-old was found hiding in a closet after the incident. The wife had been frantically texting her co-worker during the incident regarding her husband having a gun and a knife and threatening her. The responding police officers heard gunshots as they approached the house. The man’s wife had filed for divorce two months earlier.
The man’s physician, who voluntarily surrendered his medical license in November 2012, was alleged in the medical malpractice lawsuit to have failed to exercise the requisite degree of care and skill required of family practice physicians by failing to properly evaluate the man’s mental state, failing to recognize the man’s suicidal tendencies, failing to perform an appropriate psychiatric or psychological evaluation, and by failing to refer the man to a psychiatrist or psychologist for his serious psychiatric condition.
The wife’s murder was not part of the estate’s medical malpractice trial because a judge had determined before trial that the wife’s murder was irrelevant to the estate’s claim and the defendants could not be held liable for her death. Nonetheless, a psychiatrist testified during the trial that the murder-suicide was a single event, leading the defendants to file a motion to set aside the verdict against them because they allege that the implication was that the defendants caused the wife’s murder if their negligence caused the man’s suicide, among other errors they allege occurred during trial. The defendants’ motion to set aside the verdict has not been ruled on yet.
The man was a Senior Chief Master Sergeant with the Connecticut Air National Guard; he had been a member of the United States Air Force and the Connecticut Air National Guard for 26 years. He was a graduate of Central Connecticut State University and worked as a highway planner for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
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