On November 23, 2016, an Indiana medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the defendant hospital after an eight-day trial, finding that the hospital was not responsible for the two sexual assaults of a woman in its psychiatric unit that occurred in 2008 that were perpetrated by another psychiatric patient who was in the next room of the locked unit.
The victim’s claim took a tortured route to trial because it was originally filed as a simple negligence case against the hospital in 2009 and was later determined by the Indiana appellate court to be a medical negligence claim (the Indiana Supreme Court later rejected its review of the case in a split decision).
As a result, the plaintiff’s Indiana medical malpractice claim was reviewed by a three-person medical review panel that decided in favor of the hospital. The plaintiff’s attorney stated that the three-person Indiana medical review panel consisted of three doctors, one of whom was a psychiatrist who had served on between seven and ten prior medical review panels that all found in favor of the practitioner. The plaintiff’s attorney further stated that the psychiatrist serving on the medical review panel testified that the members of the panel consulted by telephone for about fifteen minutes with regard to the plaintiff’s claims before finding in favor of the hospital.
The plaintiff, who is now married and has two children, allegedly still suffers from the consequences of the two sexual assaults she endured by the other psychiatric patient.
The Alleged Underlying Facts
The plaintiff alleged that she was admitted to the defendant hospital’s psychiatric unit after she was diagnosed as suicidal and psychotic. The plaintiff allegedly believed that she had been left behind after the “rapture.” A middle-aged man who had been admitted to the defendant hospital’s psychiatric unit for detox was wrapped in a white bed sheet when the plaintiff saw him and she believed that he was Jesus. She told the hospital staff that she wanted to wash the man’s feet and she interfered with the doctor who was treating the man by throwing ice water on the doctor. The man was subsequently discharged from the psychiatric unit but was readmitted later.
Upon readmission to the defendant hospital’s psychiatric unit, he was placed in the room next to the plaintiff’s room, despite the psychiatric unit being nearly empty and despite the man having told the hospital staff that he had problems with women. The man then allegedly lured the plaintiff into his room on two occasions and engaged in sexual acts with the plaintiff, who believed that the man was Jesus and she had to obey him. The hospital staff initially disbelieved that the plaintiff had been sexually assaulted but later confirmed the sexual assaults by physical examination of the woman.
The plaintiff’s lawyer had originally filed the plaintiff’s lawsuit as a negligence action based on his belief that the claims were based on security issues and did not involve medical treatment.
If you or a member of your family or other loved one suffered injuries or other harms as a result of negligent psychiatric care in Indiana or in another U.S. state, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate a possible psychiatric malpractice claim for you and represent the injured person in a psychiatric malpractice case, if appropriate.
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