Suicide: Psychiatrist Has Statutory Immunity from Liability for Alleged Negligent Discharge of Involuntarily Committed Patient, Maryland Court Rules

March 27, 2019 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​A Maryland court of appeals concluded that a psychiatrist and the facility that employed him are immune from liability for the alleged negligent discharge and subsequent suicide of a patient, pursuant to a state mental health law concerning involuntary civil commitment. The patient's estate sued the psychiatrist and his employer to recover damages on behalf of the decedent, who died by jumping in front of a subway train one day after his discharge from the facility where he had been involuntarily committed. The court concluded that the physician was entitled to immunity for his decision to discharge the patient because the physician acted in "good faith" and on "reasonable grounds" in accordance with the substantive and procedural requirements of the state's mental health law (Md. Code Ann., Health–Gen. § 10-618, and Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-623).

The lawsuit, brought by the estate of the decedent, resulted in a jury verdict of liability and a damage award of more than $2.3 million. The jury agreed with the opinion of the plaintiff's expert witness that the medications prescribed for the 23-year-old patient during his admission...

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