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Littleton v. Good Samaritan Hospital Health Ctr.

Supreme Court of Ohio
Oct 12, 1988
39 Ohio St. 3d 86 (Ohio 1988)


finding a duty to control in an inpatient setting but declining to decide if it extends to an outpatient setting

Summary of this case from Bradley v. Ray


No. 87-1308

Submitted May 23, 1988 —

Decided October 12, 1988.

Psychiatrists — Torts — No liability for violent acts of voluntarily hospitalized mental patient subsequent to patient's discharge, when.

O.Jur 3d Incompetent Persons § 27.

A psychiatrist will not be held liable for the violent acts of a voluntarily hospitalized mental patient subsequent to the patient's discharge if (1) the patient did not manifest violent propensities while being hospitalized and there was no reason to suspect the patient would become violent after discharge, or (2) a thorough evaluation of the patient's propensity for violence was conducted, taking into account all relevant factors, and a good faith decision was made by the psychiatrist that the patient had no violent propensity, or (3) the patient was diagnosed as having violent propensities and, after a thorough evaluation of the severity of the propensities and a balancing of the patient's interests and the interests of potential victims, a treatment plan was formulated in good faith which included discharge of the patient.

APPEAL and CROSS-APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Montgomery County, Nos. 9872 and 9886.

On June 19, 1981, two-and-one-half-month-old Carly Ann Pearson died from an overdose of aspirin administered by her mother, Theresa Pearson. Two weeks prior to Carly's death, Theresa was released from the mental health unit of Good Samaritan Hospital and Health Center where she had been receiving treatment from staff psychiatrist Richard W. Murray, M.D., and psychologist Elizabeth Wales, Ph. D. This case involves the liability of Dr. Murray for the death of Carly.

The liability of Good Samaritan Hospital, seemingly predicated upon respondeat superior, stands or falls with the liability of Dr. Murray. Dr. Wales was exculpated from liability by the jury.

Shortly after Carly was born, Theresa began to feel depressed, anxious, and distracted from her usual duties. She was afraid the baby would come between her and her husband, Gregory, and her little boy, Christopher. She experienced feelings of rejection toward Carly, had impulses to harm Carly, and was fearful for Carly's safety.

Theresa's obstetrician referred her to Dr. Wales and she met with Dr. Wales several times in April. Dr. Wales initially diagnosed Theresa as suffering from post-partum depression. Dr. Wales attributed Theresa's concerns about Carly to Theresa's belief that she had caused the divorce of her parents when she was a little girl. Theresa believed men did not like little girls and feared that since she had caused her father to leave her mother, Carly might cause Greg to leave her.

When Theresa did not progress as Dr. Wales had hoped, Dr. Wales recommended a thorough physical and psychiatric evaluation. Following the recommendation of Dr. Wales, Theresa voluntarily checked into Good Samaritan Hospital on April 30, 1981. Greg's mother, Janet Ferguson, took over the care of Carly and Christopher.

Theresa was placed in the open ward of Good Samaritan's Mental Health Unit. Good Samaritan uses a team approach in treatment where various professionals in the mental health field participate in and implement treatment decisions. The team involved in Theresa's care included therapist Donna Susan Perry, nurse Selma Garber, and Dr. Murray. Dr. Murray was primarily responsible for Theresa's care. Dr. Wales was not a formal part of the team but she continued to see Theresa and had contact with the team members throughout Theresa's difficulties.

While at the hospital, Theresa participated in daily therapy sessions and took relaxant and antidepressant medication prescribed by Dr. Murray. Carly was brought in for an overnight stay in order to observe the interaction between her and Theresa. According to nurse Garber, Theresa took care of Carly but did not exhibit "motherly affection" toward her.

Theresa was released on May 8, 1981, in part because the goal of the original treatment plan was to avoid lengthy interruption of Theresa's relationship with her family and in part because Theresa pressed for discharge. She resumed care of Carly.

Dr. Wales was in charge of Theresa's care following her release and had numerous contacts with Theresa throughout the month of May. During this time, Theresa was often upset and would frequently talk with Greg about giving the baby up for adoption or placing her in a foster family. On one occasion, Theresa, while being observed by Greg, pulled covers over Carly's head while Carly was sleeping and said she wished the baby was gone.

On May 27, Dr. Wales received a phone call from Theresa. Theresa was agitated. She felt she had proof that the baby was not Greg's and was afraid Greg would leave her if she told him. Dr. Wales recommended she reenter the hospital, and Theresa was readmitted on May 29, 1981. Greg's father, Carl Pearson, and Carl's girlfriend, Margaret (Sue) Bookwalter, took charge of Carly.

Throughout her second admission, Theresa expressed concern about not loving Carly and a desire to put Carly up for adoption. She was preoccupied with the notion that Greg was not Carly's father, and wondering whether to tell Greg. She was afraid of losing her husband and son. Dr. Murray prescribed an antipsychotic drug, Stelazine, to help reduce Theresa's anxiety, and involved Theresa in various group activities at the hospital.

On a number of occasions Theresa expressed concern that she would hurt Carly. On the evening of June 1, a nurse made a note in the hospital record that Theresa "had related to Debbie Oaten [one of the nurses] that she was planning on injecting her baby with something to kill it. Seems to have a definite plan. While relating this, she was calm, collected, and appeared somewhat euphoric." However, three hours later, following a hypnosis session, the same nurse made a notation which stated: "Wants very much to keep marriage and family intact. Spoke about not loving the baby (never called her by name) but talking positively at this time about giving that time to grow. States she doesn't want to hurt the baby. Many positive comments made. Realizes that working this problem out will be difficult but really wants to do so. Patient was calm, eye contact excellent. Mood seems elevated."

Though aware of these notations, Dr. Murray did not talk with Theresa about her statements and therapist Perry could not remember whether she had done so. There is no charted conversation with Theresa about these statements. Dr. Murray felt the conflicting statements indicated that Theresa did not have a fixed objective to harm Carly.

Dr. Wales was not aware of these specific statements, but claimed there were many such statements by Theresa. Dr. Wales testified that every time Theresa mentioned she would harm Carly or was afraid she would harm Carly, Dr. Wales would ask how she would do that and Theresa never mentioned having a plan.

A few days following these statements, a meeting was held with Theresa and her family for the purpose of formulating a program for Theresa's care.

Though there is conflicting testimony over who was present at the meeting, the record indicates that the meeting was attended by Dr. Wales, therapist Perry, nurse Garber, Dr. Murray (for a brief period in the beginning), Theresa and Greg Pearson. Greg's mother, Janet Ferguson, and her husband also appear to have been present. It is not clear whether Greg's father, Carl Pearson, or Carl's girlfriend, Sue Bookwalter, was present. The meeting was not charted.

A program was established which called for Theresa to be relieved of her responsibility for taking care of Carly for one year. Greg's father and Sue agreed to share the responsibility for Carly's care with Greg's mother during that time. The goal was to protect Carly and to allow Theresa time to recover from the stress of caring for Carly while strengthening Theresa's relationship with her husband and son. Visitation with Carly was strongly encouraged in the hope that Theresa would bond with Carly and take over her care when she recovered.

The family members present at the meeting were warned, either explicitly or implicitly, that Theresa had the potential for harming Carly, but were not told of Theresa's specific threat of June 1 to kill Carly. Though his testimony contradicts itself, Greg testified that he understood the harm Theresa might cause Carly was neglecting to care for Carly, not actively hurting her.

The family was also instructed that Theresa was never to be left alone with Carly. Greg's understanding of the instructions was that Theresa was not to be left alone with Carly for long periods of time, i.e., two or three hours. He felt that the team left it to his discretion as to when and if Theresa was capable of taking care of Carly for short periods of time.

Theresa was discharged from Good Samaritan on June 5, 1981. Prior to her discharge, Theresa met with Greg and told him that she had been having an affair and that Carly was not his. Greg doubted Theresa's confession but said that in any event, he would not leave her and that he wanted to have Carly as part of his family though Theresa wanted to give Carly up for adoption.

At the time of Theresa's discharge, Dr. Murray diagnosed her as having recurrent depression. His reason for discharging her, as stated in his discharge summary, was that Theresa had been able to maintain a low level of anxiety, agitation and withdrawal for forty-eight hours following a hypnosis session. Dr. Murray testified that, in his best medical judgment, he did not believe Theresa had a fixed purpose or plan to hurt Carly and he felt the care plan adequately protected Carly by separating her from Theresa. Theresa wanted to go home and he saw no grounds for involuntary commitment.

Perry would have preferred that Theresa stay longer, but Theresa was adamant about leaving and there were no grounds, in Perry's opinion, for involuntary commitment. Dr. Wales supported the discharge even though Theresa still feared that Carly would interrupt her life. She felt Theresa's fears of harming Carly were adequately resolved by the plan to delegate responsibility for Carly's care to other family members and the fact that the paternity issue had been discussed with Greg and apparently was resolved. Dr. Wales thought that further hospitalization would have been detrimental to Theresa because it would have increased the time of separation between Theresa and her husband and son, a separation Theresa was intensely worried about.

After her discharge, Theresa continued to meet with Dr. Wales, who was in charge of follow-up. Greg's father and Sue Bookwalter continued to take responsibility for Carly. Theresa had contact with Carly but was not left alone with her until June 19th, the day Carly died.

On that day, Theresa called Sue wanting to see Carly, and Sue asked Greg whether it was okay for her to take Carly to Theresa. Greg said Theresa was doing better and she could watch the baby for a couple of hours until he got home from work. At approximately 10:15 in the morning Sue arrived at Theresa's house. Sue was going to leave to do laundry but Theresa offered to let her do it there. Sue left Carly with Theresa while she went to her car to get her laundry, took the laundry downstairs, put it in the washer, and then returned to where Theresa and Carly were. Upon returning she noticed Carly had spit up a pinkish fluid.

Sue and Theresa talked and played with Carly until Greg and his father arrived for lunch at 11:30. Greg left with his father at about 12:20, planning on returning at 2:00. Sue left at approximately 12:30, leaving Theresa alone with Carly and Chris.

Shortly thereafter, Theresa drove to the house of Janet Ferguson, and said she thought she had killed Carly. Janet and Theresa picked up Greg and went to Theresa's house, arriving at approximately 1:55. They called an ambulance for Carly. Carly was dead on arrival at the hospital from an overdose of aspirin administered by Theresa.

Theresa was taken to Good Samaritan by ambulance. She arrived in a hysterical state, screaming at times, and sobbing. She became suicidal and was eventually transferred to another hospital. Following discharge from that hospital, Theresa unsuccessfully attempted suicide.

On November 18, 1982, plaintiff-appellant, Catherine Littleton, as administratrix of Carly's estate, brought a survivorship claim and a wrongful death action against Dr. Murray and Good Samaritan Hospital, appellees and cross-appellants, later amended to include Dr. Wales as a party defendant, alleging that Carly's death was the proximate result of their negligence in releasing Theresa from the hospital.

On March 22, 1985, the plaintiff moved to amend her complaint to add Theresa as a new party plaintiff with a cause of action based on medical malpractice. The trial court overruled the motion.

At trial, plaintiff's expert, Dr. Ronald Litvak, testified that both Dr. Wales and Dr. Murray had substantially deviated from accepted standards of medical care in the treatment of Theresa, which deviation resulted in the death of Carly. Dr. Litvak testified that Dr. Murray's treatment of Theresa was negligent in that Dr. Murray should have given her antipsychotic medication during Theresa's first hospitalization, the doses of antipsychotic medication given during her second hospitalization were too low, and her medication after discharge should have been increased or changed as her condition worsened; that had the appropriate levels of medication been used and proven ineffective, electroconvulsive therapy should have been considered; and that had proper medication or electroconvulsive therapy been used, there would have been an excellent chance of ameliorating Theresa's symptoms, including her homicidal ideation toward Carly.

Dr. Litvak believed Theresa should not have been discharged on June 5, 1981, because she was potentially homicidal and her overall symptoms of depression, anxiety and rejection of Carly had not been adequately alleviated. Even though Theresa wanted to be discharged, Dr. Litvak believed Dr. Murray and Dr. Wales should have requested she stay longer and, if Theresa had refused, they should have considered involuntary commitment proceedings. Dr. Litvak felt Theresa had a "severe and imminent" potential for violence. He believed Theresa's homicidal potential was never thoroughly evaluated and he felt the discharge came too soon after Theresa's conversation with Greg about Carly's paternity.

Dr. Litvak also believed the "plan" to have Carly stay with relatives for a year was a negligent delegation of Theresa's and Carly's care to the family. He felt Dr. Murray's release of Theresa into the outpatient care of Dr. Wales was negligent because the primary way of treating Theresa's disorder should have been with anti-psychotic and antidepressant medication.

Dr. Murray's expert witness, Dr. Arthur A. Greenfield, testified that the defendants did not deviate from accepted standards of medical care in discharging Theresa on June 5. He thought that Theresa's threat of June 1 should not have prevented discharge because four days had passed from the time of the threat until her discharge, a plan was in place to protect Carly from Theresa, Theresa had an ongoing relationshiop with Dr. Wales when out of the hospital, and family involvement is very important in the treatment of those suffering from post-partum depression.

Defendants' motion for a directed verdict at the end of plaintiff's evidence was denied and the jury returned a verdict against Dr. Murray and Good Samaritan in the amount of $1,800,000. The jury also found Greg Pearson negligent, but determined that his negligence was not a proximate cause of Carly's death. The jury found no negligence on the part of Dr. Wales, Theresa, or Carl Pearson.

Dr. Murray and Good Samaritan moved for a new trial, claiming the damage award was excessive and the judgment was not supported by the weight of the evidence. In the alternative, defendants requested a remittitur reducing the damage amount to $50,000. The court found the verdict on damages was not supported by the weight of the evidence and ordered a remittitur reducing the damage amount to $300,000 or, should the plaintiff refuse the remittitur, a new trial on damages. Plaintiff appealed and defendants cross-appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed the trial court on all issues except the remittitur amount. Finding the trial judge applied an inaccurate definition of "mental anguish" in determining the remittitur, the court remanded the cause for a reconsideration of the remittitur amount.

The cause is before this court pursuant to the allowance of a motion and cross-motion to certify the record.

Graydon, Head Ritchey, Glenn V. Whitaker and Barbara Scott Bison, for appellant and cross-appellee.

Smith Schnacke, James J. Gilvary and Scott A. King, for appellees and cross-appellants.

Our threshold issue requires us to determine under what circumstances a psychiatrist can be held liable for the violent acts of a voluntarily hospitalized patient following the patient's release from the hospital.

To maintain a wrongful death action on a theory of negligence, a plaintiff must show (1) the existence of a duty owing to plaintiff's decedent, (2) a breach of that duty, and (3) proximate causation between the breach of duty and the death. Bennison v. Stillpass Transit Co. (1966), 5 Ohio St.2d 122, 34 O.O. 2d 254, 214 N.E.2d 213, paragraph one of the syllabus. The same three elements must be shown to establish a negligence action generally, including a survivorship action predicated upon ordinary negligence or medical malpractice. Cf. Hadfield-Penfield Steel Co. v. Sheller (1923), 108 Ohio St. 106, 114, 141 N.E. 89, 91; Baier v. Cleveland Ry. Co. (1937), 132 Ohio St. 388, 391, 8 O.O. 208, 209, 8 N.E.2d 1, 2; Willis v. Frank Hoover Supply (1986), 26 Ohio St.3d 186, 188, 26 OBR 160, 161, 497 N.E.2d 1118, 1120.

We review the issues before us within the framework of the tradidional duty-breach-proximate-cause analysis. The complicating factor is that this case has its genesis in the mental health field. Practitioners in the mental health field treat disturbed persons. Using the traditional concepts of tort law, we must decide how these concepts apply to such practitioners for the acts of a disturbed patient.


Though neither party disputes the existence of a duty of care owed to Carly by Dr. Murray, for purposes of clarity we deem it important to delineate the basis and scope of this duty and to show it is consistent with established tort principles of Ohio law.

Under Ohio law the existence of a duty depends on the foreseeability of the injury. Menifee v. Ohio Welding Products, Inc. (1984), 15 Ohio St.3d 75, 77, 15 OBR 179, 180, 472 N.E.2d 707, 710; Gedeon v. East Ohio Gas Co. (1934), 128 Ohio St. 335, 190 N.E. 924. We find no difficulty with the proposition that a reasonably prudent psychiatrist would have anticipated that an injury to Carly could result from his performance or nonperformance of certain acts, including discharging Theresa from the hospital without adequate precautions.

However, there is no duty under Ohio law to control the conduct of another person so as to prevent him from causing physical harm to another unless a "special relation" exists between the actor and that person which imposes a duty upon the actor to control the person's conduct. 2 Restatement of the Law 2d, Torts (1965) 122, Section 315 (adopted by this court in Gelbman v. Second Natl. Bank of Warren, 9 Ohio St.3d 77, 79, 9 OBR 280, 281, 458 N.E.2d 1262, 1263; Hill v. Sonitrol of Southwestern Ohio, Inc., 36 Ohio St.3d 36, 39, 521 N.E.2d 780, 782). Such a "special relation" exists when one takes charge of a person whom he knows or should know is likely to cause bodily harm to others if not controlled. Restatement, supra, at 129, Section 319; see Restatement, supra, at 123, Section 315, Comment c.

Even though Theresa was a voluntary patient, we find that Dr. Murray had sufficient charge of Theresa in the hospital setting such that a special relation was established. This is consistent with our holdings in other contexts, including landholders' liability, where we stated that "`liability in tort is an incident to occupation or control.'" Mitchell v. Cleveland Elec. Illum. Co. (1987), 30 Ohio St.3d 92, 94, 30 OBR 295, 297, 507 N.E.2d 352, 354, quoting Cooper v. Roose (1949), 151 Ohio St. 316, 317, 39 O.O. 145, 146, 85 N.E.2d 545, 546. It is also consistent with Illustration 1 under Section 319 of the Restatement:

We are not deciding whether a psychiatrist's duty to protect a person from the violent propensities of the psychiatrist's patient extends to the outpatient setting. See, generally, Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California (1976), 17 Cal.3d 425, 131 Cal.Rptr. 14, 551 P.2d 334.

"A operates a private hospital for contagious diseases. Through the negligence of the medical staff[,] B, who is suffering from scarlet fever, is permitted to leave the hospital with the assurance that he is entirely recovered, although his disease is still in an infectious stage. * * * B * * * communicate[s] the scarlet fever * * * to D * * *. A is subject to liability to D * * *." Restatement, supra, at 130.

Therefore, we find that Dr. Murray had a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect Carly from Theresa's violent propensities.


The standard of care required of a medical doctor is dictated by the custom of the profession:

"In order to establish medical malpractice, it must be shown by a preponderance of evidence that the injury complained of was caused by the doing of some particular thing or things that a physician or surgeon of ordinary skill, care and diligence would not have done under like or similar conditions or circumstances, or by the failure or omission to do some particular thing or things that such a physician or surgeon would have done under like or similar conditions and circumstances * * *." Bruni v. Tatsumi (1976), 46 Ohio St.2d 127, 75 O.O. 2d 184, 346 N.E.2d 673, paragraph one of the syllabus. A psychiatrist, as a medical specialist, is held to the standard of care "of a reasonable specialist practicing medicine or surgery in that same specialty in the light of present day scientific knowledge in that specialty field * * *." Bruni, supra, at paragraph two of the syllabus.

Defendants argue that the malpractice standard of ordinary care should not be applied to psychiatric decisions releasing voluntary mental patients from a hospital. They make four points in support of their argument.

First, defendants claim that psychiatrists are unable to predict their patients' potential for violence with any degree of accuracy.

In support of this point, defendants cite numerous commentators. See Steadman, Predicting Violence Leading to Homicide (1986), 62 Bull. N.Y. Acad. Med. 570, 576 ("* * * our understanding of violence and homicide is so poor that we are able accurately to predict [its occurrence] only in rare cases"); Appelbaum, Tarasoff and the Clinician: Problems in Fulfilling the Duty to Protect (1985), 142 Am. J. Psychiatry 425, 426 ("Determining future dangerousness is a task at which no profession has yet been demonstrated to be successful and for which psychiatrists probably have no special skills."); Wettstein, The Prediction of Violent Behavior and the Duty to Protect Third Parties (1984), 2 Behavioral Sci. Law 291, 312 (concerning the clinical prediction of violent behavior, "predictive reliability and accuracy remain poor, and significant numbers of false positive predictions continue to be made, given the relatively low prevalence of serious violent conduct in psychiatric patients."); Cocozza Steadman, The Failure of Psychiatric Predictions of Dangerousness: Clear and Convincing Evidence (1976), 29 Rutgers L. Rev. 1084, 1098-1099 ("The findings of this study taken together with the other works reviewed in this paper would appear to represent clear and convincing evidence of the inability of psychiatrists or anyone else to predict dangerousness accurately."); Ennis Litwack, Psychiatry and the Presumption of Expertise: Flipping Coins in the Courtroom (1974), 62 Cal. L. Rev. 693, 695-696 ("Based upon our reading of the professional literature, we have concluded that * * * there is no evidence warranting the assumption that psychiatrists can accurately determine who is `dangerous. * * *.'"); Diamond, The Psychiatric Prediction of Dangerousness (1974), 123 U. Pa. L. Rev. 439, 440 (psychiatrists cannot predict dangerousness with "reasonable accuracy"); and People v. Burnick (1975), 14 Cal.3d 306, 326, 121 Cal.Rptr. 448, 501, 535 P.2d 352, 365, quoting Murel v. Baltimore City Criminal Court (1972), 407 U.S. 355, 365, fn. 2 (Douglas, J., dissenting from dismissal of certiorari) ("Predictions of dangerous behavior, no matter who makes them, are incredibly inaccurate, and there is a growing consensus that psychiatrists are not uniquely qualified to predict dangerous behavior and are, in fact, less accurate in their predictions than other professions.").

Second, because a reasonable psychiatrist of "ordinary skill and training" cannot make an accurate prediction of a patient's violent behavior, it can never be said that a given prediction exhibited a lack of "ordinary skill." In other words, there is no standard in the psychiatric profession with which to measure a psychiatrist's judgment of a patient's propensity for violence.

Mills, The So-Called Duty to Warn: The Psychotherapeutic Duty to Protect Third Parties From Patients' Violent Acts (1984), 2 Behavioral Sci. Law 237, 248.

Third, modern psychiatry favors the early release of mental patients. If a psychiatrist knows that he will face liability for failing to foresee a patient's future violent behavior, the predictable result will be a court-mandated end to "out-patient" treatment, and the massive confinement of all patients who display even a remote possibility of violent behavior.

Defendants cite two cases in support of this proposition. Johnson v. United States (M.D. Fla. 1976), 409 F. Supp. 1283, 1293, reversed on other grounds (C.A. 5, 1978), 576 F.2d 606 ("[I]t is sound psychiatric practice to emphasize outpatient therapy rather than lengthy custody and supervision. Modern psychiatry has recognized the importance of making every reasonable effort to return a patient to an active and productive life. Thus, the patient is encouraged to develop his self-confidence by adjusting to the demands of everyday existence. In this view, mental hospitals are not seen as dumping grounds for all persons whose behavior society might find inconvenient or offensive; institutionalization is the exception, not the rule, and is called for only when a paramount therapeutic interest or the protection of society leaves no choice. * * * [M]odern psychiatric practice does not require a patient to be isolated from normal human activities until every possible danger has passed."); and Schrempf v. New York (1985), 66 N.Y. 2d 289, 295, 496 N.Y. Supp. 2d 973, 977, 487 N.E.2d 883, 887.

See Taig v. New York (1963), 19 App. Div. 2d 182, 183, 241 N.Y. Supp. 2d 495, 496-497 ("The prediction of the future course of a mental illness is a professional judgment of high responsibility and in some instances it involves a measure of calculated risk. If a liability were imposed on the physician or the State each time the prediction of future course of mental disease was wrong, few releases would ever be made and the hope of recovery and rehabilitation of a vast number of patients would be impeded and frustrated."); see, also, Cameron v. New York (1971), 37 App. Div. 2d 46, 322 N.Y. Supp. 2d 562, affirmed (1972), 30 N.Y. 2d 596, 331 N.Y. Supp. 2d 30, 282 N.E.2d 118.

Fourth, the General Assembly, in delineating the liability standards pertaining to civil commitment, holds a psychiatrist to only a good faith standard of care for decisions to commit or discharge a mental patient. The standard of care required for voluntary hospitalization should reflect the General Assembly's wisdom in formulating a standard for involuntary hospitalization.

R.C. 5122.34 states in part:
"Persons acting in good faith, either upon actual knowledge or information thought by them to be reliable, who procedurally or physically assist in the hospitalization or discharge or in judicial proceedings of a person under this chapter, do not come within any criminal provisions, and are free from any liability to the person hospitalized or to any other person." (Emphasis added.)
Significantly, former R.C. 5122.34 (136 Ohio Laws, Part II, 2062) exculpated "persons acting reasonably and in good faith" as contrasted with " persons acting in good faith," the language in the current statute. (Emphasis added.)

In place of the conventional malpractice standard, defendants urge this court to adopt a "professional judgment rule." Under this rule, a psychiatrist will not be liable for releasing a patient who subsequently harms another if, after carefully examining all relevant data, the psychiatrist makes a professional medical judgment that the patient does not pose an immediate danger to others.

The professional judgment standard has received the most attention in the New York courts where it applies to all phases of professional malpractice, including psychiatry. O'Shea v. United States (E.D.N.Y. 1985), 623 F. Supp. 380, 384, citing Bell v. New York City Health Hospitals Corp. (1982), 90 App. Div. 2 d 270, 279, 456 N.Y. Supp. 2d 787, 793. The seminal case in New York held that: "The rule requiring a physician and surgeon to use his best judgment does not hold him liable for a mere error of judgment, provided he does what he thinks is best after careful examination." Pike v. Honsinger (1898), 155 N.Y. 201, 210, 49 N.E. 760, 762. Since Pike, the New York courts have applied the professional judgment rule to exculpate physicians, and especially psychiatrists, from liability for diagnostic decisions, treatment decisions, decisions to release hospital patients who later harm themselves or others, and decisions denying hospital admission.

See Oelsner v. New York (1985), 66 N.Y. 2d 636, 495 N.Y. Supp. 2d 359, 485 N.E.2d 1024; St. George v. New York (1954), 283 App. Div. 245, 248, 127 N.Y. Supp. 2d 147, 150, affirmed (1954), 308 N.Y. 681, 124 N.E.2d 320.

See Schrempf v. New York, supra, at 296, 496 N.Y. Supp. 2d at 978, 487 N.E.2d at 888; Topel v. Long Island Jewish Medical Center (1981), 55 N.Y. 2d 682, 446 N.Y. Supp. 2d 932, 431 N.E.2d 293 (no liability for decision to put suicidal patient on fifteen-minute observation instead of continuous, even though patient subsequently committed suicide, because expert testimony did not negate the factors which led to the decision.); McDonnell v. Cty. of Nassau (May 15, 1986), N.Y. Sup. Ct., Nassau Cty. No. 11152/73, unreported.

See St. George, supra, at 248, 127 N.Y. Supp. at 150-151 ("Future human behavior is unpredictable, and it would place an unreasonable and unfair burden upon the State if it were to be held responsible in damages for everything that a person does after he has been discharged or released from one of its State institutions, even though the release was through an error of judgment, unless there is something more present than is contained in this record."); Taig, supra; Cameron, supra; Centeno v. New York (1976), 40 N.Y. 2d 932, 389 N.Y. Supp. 2d 837, 358 N.E.2d 520; Fiederlein v. New York Health Hospitals Corp. (1981), 80 App. Div. 2d 821, 437 N.Y. Supp. 2d 321, affirmed (1982), 56 N.Y. 2d 573, 450 N.Y. Supp. 2d 181, 435 N.E.2d 398.

See O'Shea v. United States (E.D. N.Y. 1985), 623 F. Supp. 380 (no liability even though patient subsequently killed someone, because psychiatrist made a careful examination of patient's condition at the time of the requested admission).

The New York courts have not applied the professional judgment rule to immunize psychiatric decisions where there was a failure to evaluate the condition of potentially dangerous patients before discharging them from the hospital, Homere v. New York (1975), 48 App. Div. 2d 422, 370 N.Y. Supp. 2d 246 (discharge decision, based on a patient evaluation, was made forty-one days before the actual discharge date. In the intervening period the patient's condition markedly worsened and no reevaluation of his condition was conducted before actual discharge.); Bell v. New York City Health Hospitals Corp., supra (psychiatrist failed to inquire into a patient's delusions and auditory hallucinations); Huntley v. New York (1984), 62 N.Y. 2d 134, 476 N.Y. Supp. 2d 99, 464 N.E.2d 467 (suicide plan of patient not told to psychiatrist in charge of leave privileges); or where there was a failure to keep detailed and proper medical notes and, consequently, it could not be established whether any evaluation of the patient's suicidal propensities had been made by a qualified psychiatrist. Cohen v. New York (1976), 51 App. Div. 2d 494, 382 N.Y. Supp. 2d 128, affirmed (1977), 41 N.Y. 2d 1086, 396 N.Y. Supp. 2d 363, 364 N.E.2d 1134.

At least one court outside New York has applied a limited standard of review to a hospitalization case. The court in Currie v. United States (M.D. N.C. 1986), 644 F. Supp. 1074, affirmed on different grounds (C.A. 4, 1987), 836 F.2d 209, held that a "psychotherapist judgment rule" should be used to review a therapist's decision not to seek involuntary hospitalization for an outpatient who subsequently became violent. The court stated:

"Under such a `psychotherapist judgment rule,' the court would not allow liability to be imposed on therapists for simple errors in judgment. Instead, the court would examine the `good faith, independence and thoroughness' of a psychotherapist's decision not to commit a patient. * * * Factors in reviewing such good faith include the competence and training of the reviewing psychotherapists, whether the relevant documents and evidence were adequately, promptly and independently reviewed, whether the advice or opinion of another therapist was obtained, whether the evaluation was made in light of the proper legal standards for commitment, and whether other evidence of good faith exists." (Citation omitted). Id. at 1083.

The court derived its psychotherapist judgment rule from the business judgment rule used to review decisions of corporate directors:

"In the business judgment rule, courts defer to the decisions of disinterested directors absent bad faith or self-interest. Many of the considerations cited as justifications for the business judgment rule are applicable to the present case. For example, as with business decisions, the court is not particularly qualified to review commitment decisions involving mental health and dangerousness. In addition, these types of commitment procedures require quick action, and `after-the-fact litigation is a most imperfect device to evaluate' those decisions, as in the corporate setting. * * * Finally, policy considerations favor giving psychotherapists, as well as corporate directors, significant discretion to use their best judgment, recognizing that `[a] rule which penalizes the choice of seemingly riskier alternatives * * * may not be in the interest' of the parties or society." (Citations omitted). Id.

Plaintiff contends there is no basis for deviating from the malpractice standard of care set forth in Bruni. In response to defendants' arguments, plaintiff asserts (1) although there are limits to the degree of accuracy, many practitioners believe that prediction of violent behavior is possible; (2) recent scholarship suggests that predictive accuracy may be better than previously thought; (3) there are objective professional standards for evaluating violent potential; and (4) holding psychiatrists only to a professional judgment rule in effect requires a psychiatric patient to assume the risk of improper treatment.

See Givelber, Bowers Blitch, Tarasoff, Myth and Reality: An Empirical Study of Private Law in Action (1984), Wis. L. Rev. 443, 462-464.

See Monahan, The Prediction of Violent Behavior: Toward a Second Generation of Theory and Policy (1984), 141 Am. J. Psychiatry 10, 11 ("No one thinks that the prediction of violence is on the verge of attaining a validity comparable to that of the prediction of the weather. But fewer people are now convinced of the inevitability of ACLU-type evaluations of the field, that psychiatrists and psychologists are inaccurate `about 95 percent of the time.' There may indeed be a ceiling on the level of accuracy that can ever be expected of the clinical prediction of violent behavior. That ceiling, however, may be closer to 50% than to 5% among some groups of clinical interests.").

See Appelbaum, supra (142 Am. J. Psychiatry 425), at 426.

We find the arguments in support of adopting the professional judgment rule persuasive. Though a psychiatrist's ability to predict violent behavior is probably better than a layperson's, and there does appear to be some consensus within the mental health community on the factors relevant to a diagnosis of violent propensities, diagnosing both the existence of violent propensities and their severity is still a highly subjective undertaking. Psychiatric evaluations of any given fact pattern are bound to vary widely. And once a determination is made that a patient possesses a propensity for violent behavior, deciding upon a course of treatment poses difficult questions. The patient's right to good medical care, including freedom from unnecessary confinement and unwarranted breaches of confidentiality, must be balanced against the need to protect potential victims. Courts, with the benefit of hindsight, should not be allowed to second-guess a psychiatrist's professional judgment.

See Kroll Mackenzie, When Psychiatrists Are Liable: Risk Management and Violent Patients (1983), 34 Hospital Community Psychiatry 29.

In response to the question whether two doctors will come to the same diagnosis, Dr. Ronald Fox, expert witness for Dr. Wales, responded: "The evidence is that two people making the same diagnosis as a result of about, oh, I would say 200 or 300 studies that have been done show very clearly that the agreement on diagnosis runs from about the 50 to 60 percent range. In fact, if you take two experienced people, they could be psychiatrists or psychologists, it makes no difference, tell them a person is depressed, and you only want them to make a judgment as to whether it is mild, moderate, or severe, the agreement in that case, how severe is the depression, shows agreement at less than 60 percent. It runs 55 percent, which means you have a very large error in those kinds of judgments."

One commentator suggests that concern about liability for the violent acts of their patients has led some psychiatrists to involuntarily hospitalize patients who may or may not be mentally ill solely for the purpose of preventing them from engaging in violent behavior. Appelbaum, The New Preventive Detention: Psychiatry's Problematic Responsibility for the Control of Violence (1988), 145 Am. J. Psychiatry 779; see, also, Givelber, supra, at 478.
Under Ohio law, involuntary commitment can be undertaken for the benefit of the patient, society, or both. R.C. 5122.01(B). A mentally ill person can be involuntarily hospitalized for the protection of society if that person represents "a substantial risk of physical harm to others," R.C. 5122.01(B)(2), and psychiatrists can cause a person they believe represents such a risk to be temporarily taken into custody pursuant to emergency hospitalization procedures, R.C. 5122.10.
Since, in Ohio, a psychiatrist's decision to involuntarily commit someone is judged by a good faith standard, R.C. 5122.34, to apply a lesser standard to other viable methods of discharging the duty to protect a potential victim from a patient's violence would, in effect, encourage commitment over those other methods.

In Ohio, a physician can be held liable for unauthorized disclosures of medical information. See Hammonds v. Aetna Cas. Sur. Co. (N.D. Ohio 1965), 243 F. Supp. 793; Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Jackson (1967), 10 Ohio App.2d 137, 39 O.O. 2d 242, 226 N.E.2d 760; Prince v. St. Francis-St. George Hospitals, Inc. (1985), 20 Ohio App.3d 4, 20 OBR 4, 484 N.E.2d 265; Levias v. United Airlines (1985), 27 Ohio App.3d 222, 27 OBR 262, 500 N.E.2d 370; see, also, R.C. 4731.22(B)(4) ("Willfully betraying a professional confidence" is a ground for physician discipline.); see, generally, Johnston, Breach of Medical Confidence in Ohio (1986), 19 Akron L. Rev. 373. However, an exception exists for disclosures necessary to protect individual or public welfare. See Jones v. Stanko (1928), 118 Ohio St. 147, 160 N.E. 456, paragraph two of the syllabus; see, generally, Johnston, supra.
The American Medical Association has long allowed breaches of confidence when "it becomes necessary in order to protect the welfare of the individual or of the community." Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association (1957), Section 9. Apparently, even before the seminal Tarasoff decision, therapists occasionally gave warnings to potential victims and their families. Wise, Where the Public Peril Begins: A Survey of Psychotherapists to Determine the Effects of Tarasoff (1978), 31 Stan. L. Rev. 165, 183-184, 190.

Warning a potential victim of a patient's propensity for violence has been suggested as one way to discharge the duty to protect others from a patient's violence without infringing on a patient's liberty interest. See Fleming Maximov, The Patient or His Victim: The Therapist's Dilemma (1974), 62 Cal. L. Rev. 1025. However, warning a potential victim has also been strongly criticized as generally counter-productive to effective patient treatment. See Stone, The Tarasoff Decisions: Suing Psychotherapists to Safeguard Society (1976), 90 Harv. L. Rev. 358 (a duty to warn potential victims is incompatible with an effective therapeutic relationship and will deter both patients and therapists from undertaking treatment); Mills, supra, at 250 and 257 ("Confidentiality must give way where the psychotherapist believes that the patient is dangerous, but if an alternate, clinical means can be found for dealing with the patient's dangerousness, such means are highly preferable."); Givelber, supra, at 469-472 (survey indicates many therapists feel warning is in conflict with clinical judgment); Weinstock, Confidentiality and the New Duty to Protect: The Therapist's Dilemma (1988), 39 Hospital Community Psychiatry 607, 609 ("Reporting and warning can lead to outcomes harmful to both patient and potential victim."); Schmid, Appelbaum, Roth Lidz, Confidentiality in Psychiatry: A Study of the Patient's View (1983), 34 Hospital Community Psychiatry 353, 355 (concluding that "* * * factors that diminish confidentiality in psychiatric care may impair the willingness of patients to seek and to remain in treatment").
But, see, Wulsin, Bursztajn Gutheil, Unexpected Clinical Features of the Tarasoff Decision: The Therapeutic Alliance and the "Duty to Warn" (1983), 140 Am. J. Psychiatry 601 (noting some therapeutic advantages of approaching the duty to warn in clinical terms).

On the other hand, a psychiatric patient is not required to assume the risk of improper treatment. Where there are professional standards of care a psychiatrist is required to conform to the standards at all times or suffer liability. Where there are no professional standards, a psychiatrist must exercise good faith judgment based on a thorough evaluation of all relevant factors. Professional standards will be used to determine which factors are relevant and whether an evaluation was thorough.

Therefore, we hold that a psychiatrist will not be held liable for the violent acts of a voluntarily hospitalized mental patient subsequent to the patient's discharge if (1) the patient did not manifest violent propensities while being hospitalized and there was no reason to suspect the patient would become violent after discharge, or (2) a thorough evaluation of the patient's propensity for violence was conducted, taking into account all relevant factors, and a good faith decision was made by the psychiatrist that the patient had no violent propensity, or (3) the patient was diagnosed as having violent propensities and, after a thorough evaluation of the severity of the propensities and a balancing of the patient's interests and the interests of potential victims, a treatment plan was formulated in good faith which included discharge of the patient.


As reflected in his discharge summaries, Dr. Murray knew that Theresa had a potential to harm Carly. He was told of Theresa's fears of harming Carly as well as her statement of June 1 that she planned to kill Carly. He, Dr. Wales and the other members of the team knew at the time of Theresa's release from the hospital that she had a potential for harming Carly. However, Dr. Murray concluded, as did the others, that Theresa did not have a "plan" to harm Carly or possess a severe and imminent potential for violence. He felt the plan to place Carly with Greg's relatives was adequate to protect Carly. Absent bad faith or lack of a thorough evaluation of Theresa's condition, Dr. Murray will not be held liable for this judgment, even though it led to the death of Carly.

Dr. Litvak testified that Dr. Murray did not conduct a thorough evaluation of Theresa's homicidal potential. Basing his opinion on his review of the hospital records and the depositions of Dr. Murray and Dr. Wales, Dr. Litvak concluded that Dr. Murray should have talked with Theresa and asked her what her thoughts were, trying to ascertain whether those thoughts were rational or not, what her reasons were for wanting to hurt the baby, what means she had thought of for hurting the baby, if she had a specific date, time and place that she might be doing it, and whether or not she had actually attempted to do anything like that in the past; that Dr. Murray should have ascertained in general how impulsive a person Theresa might be, and then whether her illness might make her more impulsive, unpredictable and unreliable; that Dr. Murray should have determined whether Theresa had previously acted aggressively toward anyone else and under what circumstances; and that Dr. Murray should have determined whether family members had seen Theresa acting in such a way as to indicate she would hurt the baby or heard her talking about hurting the baby. Dr. Litvak found no indication that Dr. Murray went into that amount of detail in the records Dr. Litvak reviewed.

It is clear from Dr. Murray's own testimony that he did not talk with Theresa about her statement of June 1. However, it is not clear from the record whether another member of the treatment team talked with her about it. Perry believed she did, but could not remember. More important, it is not clear whether Dr. Murray or another team member should have talked with Theresa about the specific threat in light of her recanting three hours later. Dr. Greenfield, expert witness for Dr. Murray and the hospital, stated he would have wanted to personally talk with Theresa about the note but that failure to do so was not malpractice.

It is not clear from the record whether Dr. Murray evaluated Theresa's potential for violence. He was not in daily contact with her while she was at the hospital, nor did he conduct individual therapy sessions with her. However, he did talk with her on occasion and he received information on Theresa from members of the team who were in daily contact with her and conducting therapy. In addition, he received information from Dr. Wales and members of Theresa's family.

The plaintiff faults Dr. Murray for not being more involved in personally treating Theresa. However, "team treatment" appears to be a legitimate mode of therapy within the psychiatric community. See Gowan v. United States (D. Ore. 1985), 601 F. Supp. 1297, 1301-1302. We find that a genuine issue exists as to whether Dr. Murray acted as would a reasonable psychiatrist in evaluating Theresa's potential for violence.

The jury was instructed to consider whether Theresa's release from the hospital was premature, whether the treatment plan for the release was inadequate, and whether there was a failure to warn necessary persons of the known or reasonably foreseeable dangerous consequences of the release. Unfortunately, the basis of the jury's verdict against Dr. Murray was never tested. The jury could have found Dr. Murray liable for negligence in evaluating Theresa's condition or for one of the other grounds asserted by the plaintiff. However, under the professional judgment rule, the other grounds, including premature discharge and failure to warn, can be a basis for liability only in the absence of good faith or a failure to exercise professional judgment. Therefore, in light of this new standard, a new trial should be conducted on Dr. Murray's liability.


The final issue we address concerns the trial court's denial of the plaintiff's motion to add Theresa as a new party plaintiff with a cause of action sounding in medical malpractice. The plaintiff's motion was made in March 1985, well after the statute of limitations had run on Theresa's claim. To come within the statute of limitations, the amended complaint would have to relate back to the date of the original complaint.

Civ. R. 15(C) governs the relation back of amended pleadings:

"* * * An amendment changing the party against whom a claim is asserted relates back if the foregoing provision is satisfied and, within the period provided by law for commencing the action against him, the party to be brought in by amendment (1) has received such notice of the institution of the action that he will not be prejudiced in maintaining his defense on the merits, and (2) knew or should have known that, but for a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party, the action would have been brought against him."

The Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, including Civ. R. 15(C), were patterned after the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The 1966 Advisory Committee Notes to federal Rule 15(c) state: "The relation back of amendments changing plaintiffs is not expressly treated in * * * Rule 15(c) since the problem is generally easier. * * * [T]he chief consideration of policy is that of the statute of limitations, and the attitude taken in * * * Rule 15(c) toward change of defendants extends by analogy to amendments changing plaintiffs."

The primary purpose of Civ. R. 15(C) is to preserve actions which, through mistaken identity or misnomer, have been filed against the wrong person. No mistake or misnomer is alleged here, and Theresa waited well over three years to bring an action.

Federal courts have allowed relation back when the new plaintiff is the real party in interest or an original plaintiff brings a new cause of action in a different capacity, but generally not when a new plaintiff brings a new cause of action. See Marlowe v. Fisher Body (C.A. 6, 1973), 489 F.2d 1057, 1064; People of the Living God v. Star Towing Co. (E.D. La. 1968), 289 F. Supp. 635, 641. Therefore, we affirm the dismissal of the plaintiff's motion to add Theresa as a party plaintiff.

Metropolitan Paving Co. v. Internatl. Union of Operating Engineers (C.A. 10, 1971), 439 F.2d 300, certiorari denied (1971), 404 U.S. 829.

Williams v. United States (C.A. 5, 1968), 405 F.2d 234.

Based on our resolution of these issues, it is unnecessary to address other issues raised by the parties. We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand this cause for a new trial on all issues, including damages, based on the professional judgment standard.

Judgment reversed and cause remanded.


DOUGLAS, J., concurs in part and dissents in part.

I concur in large part with the majority's adoption of the professional judgment rule, and with the affirmance of the trial court's dismissal of Theresa Pearson as a party plaintiff, but I do not agree that a new trial is warranted on the issue of Dr. Murray's liability.

The professional judgment rule is a satisfactory approach to the thorny problem of the liability of mental health practitioners for the violent acts of a voluntarily hospitalized patient subsequent to discharge. I am troubled to some degree, however, by the test adopted today in that it fails to include a limited duty to warn. Further, the rule seems to "swallow up" the concept of malpractice in this area, such that professional incompetence will not be the basis for liability.

Under my reading of the professional judgment rule set forth in the majority opinion, a psychiatrist may never be held liable for the discharge of a patient known to be violent as long as the psychiatrist has made a thorough evaluation of the patient's violent tendencies and balanced in good faith the competing interests. I am not persuaded of the desirability of such a rule in all cases. Consider the example of a patient who has repeatedly stated to his psychiatrist that he intends to kill an identified individual upon discharge, and the psychiatrist believes that the patient is capable of carrying out the threat but releases him without warning the intended victim. The psychiatrist may very well have exercised his professional judgment in good faith in deciding that discharge was therapeutically appropriate, but if the patient then harms or kills the threatened victim, should there really be no liability? And what if the psychiatrist discharges a patient, having made a completely incompetent finding that the patient was non-violent, and the patient then kills or maims the unwarned victim? Under today's majority opinion, no liability will attach as long as the psychiatrist has made a "thorough" evaluation of the relevant factors and has acted in good faith. I am not convinced that such a rule is entirely fair, although I am aware of the difficulties of proving competence or lack thereof in the area of predicting dangerousness and the importance of confidentiality in treating mental illness.

In any event, while I am willing to accept the rule set forth today as a satisfactory compromise in a difficult area of the law, I cannot accept the majority's application of the rule to the facts presented in this case.

The majority finds that a new trial is warranted on the question of Dr. Murray's liability "* * * in light of this new standard," i.e., the professional judgment rule. It is my belief, however, that a new trial is not necessary, since even under the new standard, the result would be the same.

Dr. Murray was the head of the team charged with Theresa's care. He held the ultimate responsibility for decisions made during the course of her treatment. Dr. Murray conceded that he knew of Theresa's threat to kill her baby. He admitted that he never discussed this threat with Theresa. In fact, according to Dr. Litvak, an expert witness who examined the relevant medical records in this case, "* * * there is no indication in the record that * * * [Dr. Murray] ever talked with the patient * * *." (Emphasis added.) Given these facts, it is difficult to imagine how any reasonable juror could find that Dr. Murray conducted a "thorough evaluation of the patient's propensity for violence * * *, taking into account all relevant factors * * *." A "thorough" evaluation of a patient's violent tendencies must surely include personal contact with the patient. Since Dr. Murray had the ultimate responsibility for all aspects of Theresa's treatment, including any decision regarding her discharge, and since he was aware of her specific threat to kill her baby, an adequate evaluation of her dangerousness could not be made without at least talking with her about her plan. Theresa's apparent retraction of her threat hours after voicing it does not negate the fact that the threat was made. After her retraction, Theresa continued to express hostile feelings toward her baby. Dr. Murray could not reasonably evaluate the depth of these hostilities without talking to Theresa.

Thus, even under the new standard adopted today, reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion: Dr. Murray is liable for failing to conduct a "thorough evaluation" of Theresa's potential for violence. Therefore, the trial court's instructions to the jury cannot be considered prejudicial error because the same result would have occurred had the instructions included the new standard, which, of course, did not exist before today's decision. Therefore, there is no need for a retrial with all the expenditures of time, energy and money such a trial would entail. My review of the record reveals that Judge Kessler conducted this proceeding in a fair, thorough, and highly competent manner with full regard for the rights and interests of all parties. After hearing all the evidence and viewing all the witnesses at trial, the jury returned a verdict for $1.8 million. This jury, it should be remembered, was composed of a cross-section of the parties' peers, drawn at random, who approached the case with no previous knowledge of the facts or circumstances and, of course, no preconceived notions. Given the record before us, it is not difficult to see how the jury could render such a verdict. Nevertheless, the trial judge obviously felt the amount of the jury's verdict was excessive. Accordingly, the judge, exercising his prerogative, ordered a remittitur reducing the award to $300,000, or, in the alternative, granting a new trial on the issue of damages only. Based upon a thorough review of the record, I support the well-reasoned decision of Judge Kessler.

It is interesting to note that neither the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure nor the Ohio Revised Code contains a specific provision allowing for remittitur of a grossly excessive jury verdict. See, generally, however, Civ. R. 59(A). Nevertheless, the practice of ordering the remittitur of an excessive verdict or granting a new trial in the alternative has long been established in Ohio. See, e.g., Pendleton Street RR. Co. v. Rahmann (1872), 22 Ohio St. 446, syllabus; Larrissey v. Norwalk Truck Lines, Inc. (1951), 155 Ohio St. 207, 219, 44 O.O. 238, 243, 98 N.E.2d 419, 426.

To set aside the verdict, as well as the consequent remittitur, is completely unnecessary and unwarranted. I wonder what the majority will do if the jury on retrial, properly instructed under the new standard, returns a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of, say, two million dollars. Faced with this prospect, I think the far wiser course to take at this point is to reverse the judgment of the court of appeals solely on the remittitur issue, and reinstate the judgment of the trial court in all respects.

Summaries of

Littleton v. Good Samaritan Hospital Health Ctr.

Supreme Court of Ohio
Oct 12, 1988
39 Ohio St. 3d 86 (Ohio 1988)

finding a duty to control in an inpatient setting but declining to decide if it extends to an outpatient setting

Summary of this case from Bradley v. Ray

In Littleton v. Good Samaritan Hospital & Health Center, 39 Ohio St.3d 86, 92, 529 N.E.2d 449, 454 (1988), the Ohio Supreme Court indicated that the same elements must be proved in order to prevail on a wrongful death claim predicated upon a negligence theory.

Summary of this case from Smith v. United States

In Littleton v. Good Samaritan Hosp. Health Ctr. (1988), 39 Ohio St.3d 86, 529 N.E.2d 449, this court determined that under certain circumstances a psychiatrist can be held liable for the violent acts of a voluntarily hospitalized patient following the patient's release from the hospital.

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In Littleton, 39 Ohio St.3d 86, 529 N.E.2d 449, we balanced the various policy considerations in determining the appropriate standard of care to be applied to psychiatric decisions releasing voluntarily hospitalized mental patients from the hospital.

Summary of this case from Morgan v. Fam. Counseling Ctr.

In Littleton, supra, 39 Ohio St.3d at 92-93, 529 N.E.2d at 455, we relied on Section 319 of the Restatement in finding that a special relation exists between a psychiatrist and his patient in the hospital setting.

Summary of this case from Morgan v. Fam. Counseling Ctr.

In Littleton, supra, 39 Ohio St.3d at 96, 529 N.E.2d at 458, we relied in part upon Bell v. New York City Health Hospitals Corp. (1982), 90 A.D.2d 270, 456 N.Y.S.2d 787, in constructing the professional judgment standard to be applied in the hospital setting.

Summary of this case from Morgan v. Fam. Counseling Ctr.

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Summary of this case from Morgan v. Fam. Counseling Ctr.

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Summary of this case from Morgan v. Fam. Counseling Ctr.

In Littleton, we placed reliance in part on Cohen v. New York (1976), 51 A.D.2d 494, 382 N.Y.S.2d 128, affirmed (1977), 41 N.Y.2d 1086, 396 N.Y.S.2d 363, 364 N.E.2d 1134, in constructing the psychotherapist judgment rule.

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discussing duty in voluntary hospitalization context

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reviewing psychiatrist's decision to release a patient who subsequently murdered her infant after having expressed a desire to do so while hospitalized

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reviewing psychiatrist's decision to release a patient who subsequently murdered her infant after having expressed a desire to do so while hospitalized

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discussing the elements necessary to establish an underlying medical malpractice claim in a survivorship action

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applying the Bruni standard to psychiatrists as a medical specialist, without explicitly premising its validity on board certification

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Case details for

Littleton v. Good Samaritan Hospital Health Ctr.

Case Details


Court:Supreme Court of Ohio

Date published: Oct 12, 1988


39 Ohio St. 3d 86 (Ohio 1988)
529 N.E.2d 449

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