Our Pittsburgh partner, Thomas Lowery, obtained a defense verdict on behalf of his security company client, arising out of an altercation in the emergency room of a hospital. The plaintiff/patient was brought to the hospital by the state police, in an attempt to have her committed involuntarily pursuant to the mental health law. Plaintiff was believed to be suicidal. The state police did not describe the plaintiff as aggressive or combative, but the employees of the co-defendant hospital claimed she was loud, vulgar, and uncooperative from the moment she arrived. Plaintiff announced an intent to leave, and in attempting to leave the examination room, became involved in an altercation with a security guard, and suffered a fractured wrist requiring three surgeries.
Discovery was complicated by the fact that the mental health statutes protect patients from having to reveal details of their psychiatric treatment, except in specific circumstances. The defendants convinced the trial court to allow limited discovery into some of plaintiff’s prior records, and when those records contained indications that plaintiff, an admitted drug and alcohol abuser, had become aggressive on occassions where plaintiff went for a time without getting any drugs or alcohol, the court agreed to conduct an in camera inspection of plaintiff’s records, and ultimately ordered that additional segments be produced to the defendants.
Because we were able to cast enough doubt as to plaintiff’s version of events, and we were able to offer a plausible explanation as to why plaintiff acted out and got in the scuffle with the security guard, when she was facing forced rehabilitation with no access to drugs or alcohol, we were able to convince the fact finder to deny all of plaintiff’s claims.