UPMC argues judge should dismiss parts of Western Psych employee lawsuit
Pennsylvania's “stringent” health care laws kept doctors from committing diagnosed schizophrenic John Shick to Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic against his will, a mental health expert said Tuesday.
Shick, 30, of Oakland entered the hospital on March 8, 2012, and opened fire, killing therapist Mike Schaab, 25, of Regent Square, and wounding receptionist Kathryn Leight, 66, of Glenshaw and three others before University of Pittsburgh police officers shot and killed him.
Attorneys representing UPMC filed preliminary objections on Monday asking Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick to toss out several parts of a lawsuit Leight filed — one of two against Shick's estate — which blames UPMC doctors for missing several opportunities to involuntarily commit Shick to a mental facility.
“In Pennsylvania, it's a lot harder to do that (commit someone) than in other states. A lot harder than it ought to be,” said Brian Stettin, policy director for the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va. “You've got to show they've done something terrible in the past 30 days or they're likely to end up dead in the next 30 days. It forces people to wait around until they get worse.”
UPMC's attorneys said the lawsuit does not show that Shick — diagnosed as schizophrenic during involuntary commitments in New York and Oregon — made a “specific immediate threat of serious bodily injury” to physicians, nor that he was a “clear and present danger to himself or to others that would have justified an application for involuntary commitment.”
Leight referred calls to her attorney, Mark Homyak, who did not return calls.
In other states, physicians are able to argue more broadly how a person is going to meet a serious fate if not committed, Stettin said. Pennsylvania law requires speculation, “which is almost impossible,” he said.
“It just puts the treatment professional in a very difficult situation to say this is about to happen.”
In addition to reasons why Shick was not committed against his will, the university's response claims Leight's lawsuit doesn't provide facts that would “give rise to a duty on the part of University of Pittsburgh to have warned/protected Mrs. Leight from John Shick,” and the University of Pittsburgh — as landlord of Western Psych — “owed no duty to Mrs. Leight while she was on the premises and is not liable for injuries occurred.”
The response says Leight's claims should be covered under workers' compensation, not from damages sought in the lawsuit.
UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said that while the health care giant is “very sorry” for the injuries, “under the circumstances described in their lawsuits, the law is very clear that there is no basis to sue us for compensation in addition to medical expenses and wages for which we have compensated them.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates storm back with late rally to defeat Diamondbacks, 9-4
- Steelers’ Blake prefers secondary job
- Steelers notebook: Team extends Suisham’s contract through 2018
- Pirates notebook: Cole scratched from rehab start at Indianapolis
- Connellsville loses pillar of Catholic community
- Steelers rookie says Sam, his former roommate, has changed
- Locke’s difficulties continue thanks to old friends
- Rise in pickup truck sales a good sign for economy
- Rostraver police identify suspect in home invasion
- Big-hearted outdoorsman opened horse rescue
- Eastern Derry VFD closes