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Med mal suit over stay at psych ward settled after ten years

Medical malpractice claims are not uncommon, and they can arise out of very unusual circumstances. The recent settlement of a medical malpractice claim involving psychiatric malpractice involving a Long Island resident and a psychiatric clinic in Brooklyn may involve some of the strangest circumstances imaginable.

The incident

In 2008, the plaintiff was asked by a friend to take care of a cat while the friend was out of town. While the plaintiff was caring for the cat, it fell down a narrow shaft in the apartment where the plaintiff was cat sitting. The plaintiff made strenuous efforts to rescue the cat, including breaking into another apartment that was adjacent to the shaft where the cat was trapped. When the plaintiff pursued his cat-rescuing efforts by breaking into another apartment, a neighbor called the police. The cat was finally rescued after being trapped for 14 days.

The police took the plaintiff to the psychiatric ward at Long Island College Hospital (LICH). He remained at LICH for six days while psychiatrists examined him. The plaintiff told the doctors that he was trying to rescue a trapped cat, and the doctors interpreted this statement as a “bizarre delusion.” The plaintiff also told the doctors about one of his prized possessions, a painting by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Doctors interpreted his story about the sketch as further evidence of his mental illness. He was prescribed powerful anti-psychotic medications, which he took on rare occasions.

Plaintiff’s experts

Plaintiff offered expert testimony from several psychiatrists who criticized the staff at LICH for failing to make any attempt to verify the plaintiff’s story about attempting to rescue the cat or his possession of the Hundertwasser painting. Plaintiff’s experts also criticized the LICH staff for failing to keep adequate medical records of plaintiff’s medications.

The settlement

After almost 10 years of litigation, the case was settled recently. A non-disclosure agreement prevents the plaintiff from disclosing the terms of the settlement, but he said that he received an amount in six figures.

Takeaways

As this case demonstrates, malpractice can appear in many different forms. The defendants’ main fault in this case was their failure to investigate the credibility of the plaintiff’s statements. Anyone who has suffered from maltreatment by a mental health specialist may wish to consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney for an evaluation of the evidence, the recommendation of legal theories and strategies, and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.