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Patient in psychiatric hospital hanged herself in her room

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

Texas

Venue:

Dallas County

Court:

Dallas County District Court, 160th

Injury Type(s):

other-death

Case Type:

Wrongful Death – Survival Damages; Medical Malpractice – Psychiatrist, Mental Health, Failure to Monitor, Failure to Communicate

Case Name:

James V. Bennetts, Individually and as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Brittney R. Bennetts, Deceased, and Marian E. Stone v. S. Richard Roskos, M.D.,
No. DC-15-13671

Date:

November 13, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Marian E. Stone (Female), 

James V. Bennetts (Male), 

Estate of Brittney R. Bennetts (Female, 37 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Glenn W. Cunningham;
Law Offices of Glenn W. Cunningham;
San Antonio,
TX,
for
Marian E. Stone, James V. Bennetts, Estate of Brittney R. Bennetts ■ Searcy L. “Skip” Simpson;
Law Offices of Skip Simpson;
Frisco,
TX,
for
Marian E. Stone, James V. Bennetts, Estate of Brittney R. Bennetts

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Geetha Jayaram; M.D.; Psychiatry; Baltimore,
MD called by:
Glenn W. Cunningham, Searcy L. “Skip” Simpson

Defendant(s):

S. Richard Roskos

Defense Attorney(s):

Edward P. Quillin;
Quillin Law Firm, P.C.;
Dallas,
TX,
for
S. Richard Roskos ■ T. Glenn Ingram;
Quillin Law Firm, P.C.;
Dallas,
TX,
for
S. Richard Roskos

Defendant Expert(s):

Colin Ross;
Psychiatry;
Richardson,
TX called by:
Edward P. Quillin, T. Glenn Ingram ■ Douglas Jacobs;
Psychiatry;
Wellesley Hills,
MA called by:
Edward P. Quillin, T. Glenn Ingram

Insurer(s):

Doctors Co.

Facts:

On Dec. 2, 2014, plaintiffs’ decedent Brittney R. Bennetts, 37, a mental health counselor who had a history of psychiatric problems, went to Dallas from her home in Montana to enter Timberlawn Behavioral Health System, a psychiatric hospital, for depression, dissociative identity disorder and attempted suicide. She had been admitted to the hospital 13 times before. Her attending physician at the hospital was Dr. S. Richard Roskos, a psychiatrist with a history of treating her. Bennetts’ chart contained a “High Risk Notification Alert,” with risk factors including suicidal ideation “with plans” and a history of self-harm. She was admitted in the early morning of Dec. 2, and nurses implemented a plan of checking on her every 15 minutes. There were three levels of observation available: checking on her every 15 minutes; continuous “line-of-sight” visual observation; or one-to-one observation, in which the patient is never more than arm’s length from a staff member. Roskos’ first evaluation of Bennetts during this admission was at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2. In his initial physician orders, Roskos did not specify a level of observation for her. Hospital staff continued checking on her every 15 minutes, but at about 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 3, they found Bennetts unresponsive in her room. She had hanged herself in a sitting position with a torn bedsheet tied to a doorknob. Paramedics were called, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. James V. Bennetts, individually as her father and on behalf of his daughter’s estate, and Marian E. Stone, individually as her mother, sued Roskos for medical malpractice. The family and the estate settled with the hospital for an undisclosed amount before suit was filed. Only the estate’s claim against Roskos went to trial. The plaintiffs’ psychiatry expert opined that Roskos was negligent and grossly negligent for failing to specify a level of observation. Because it takes only five to six minutes to die by hanging, checking on Bennetts every 15 minutes was not enough, and Roskos should have specified one-to-one observation or continuous “line of sight” visual observation, the expert said. Roskos and his experts contended that checking on Bennetts every 15 minutes was within the standard of care because she was not in imminent danger of harming herself.

Injury:

Bennetts committed suicide. Her estate sought damages for her pain and mental anguish.

Result:

The jury found only the hospital negligent and did not find negligence by Roskos. The jury did not reach the questions on damages or gross negligence. `

Trial Information:

Judge:

Jim Jordan

Demand:

$175,000

Offer:

none

Trial Length:

4
 days

Trial Deliberations:

2
 hours

Jury Vote:

12-0

Jury Composition:

6 male/ 6 female

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel.