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Wrongful Death

Case Summary

Plaintiff's decedent, her husband, had a long history of depression and heart valve irregularity. Those problems were well controlled until late 1996 when he began to suffer symptoms of heart trouble and his doctors recommended surgery. The decedent was upset and very anxious because of the worsening of his heart condition even though the surgery was almost 100% successful and would certainly improve his health.

When hospitalized for tests in February, 1997, decedent's cardiologist stopped the antidepressant medica/tion which had been prescribed by his psychiatrist and released him from the hospital even though plaintiff requested that her husband be kept in the hospital and the husband told the cardiologist that he had thoughts of suicide.

On February 18, 1997, the decedent was seen by his psychiatrist, who put him on new medication. The decedent expressed his suicidal thoughts to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist made the decedent promise that he would not hurt himself and sent him home. The night before decedent committed suicide, he contacted his psychiatrist and described worsening symptoms. The psychiatrist instructed him to take Benadryl, and, if that did not calm him down, go to the ER. The decedent took the Benadryl and went to sleep. The Benadryl had temporarily masked decedent's symptoms and when he woke the following morning, he shot himself.

The jury returned a verdict of $1.6 million, finding the cardiologist 56% at fault and the psychiatrist 44% at fault.

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