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Gwinnett County Man Files Medical Malpractice Lawsuit over Wife’s Murder

It’s not the kind of case that Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers often come across. A Gwinnett County man has filed a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice against his son’s psychiatrist. The case has triggered debate over whether a criminal suspect’s family is eligible for damages in a civil action.

The son, in this case, is mentally ill, and has been accused and charged with allegedly stabbing his mother to death. In 2001, the son, began receiving treatment for a number of conditions, including violent tendencies, from a psychiatrist in Gwinnett County. The treatment seemed to help him, and expert witnesses testified as much during the trial.

In May 2002 however, the defendant in the civil medical malpractice lawsuit allegedly eliminated at least two powerful medications from the patient’s medication program, because he believed that these could be contributing to the development of dangerous symptoms. Soon, the patient’s mental condition began to worsen. He suffered recurrent nightmares, and began hallucinating that the devil was ordering him to do bad things.

Things took a turn for the worse in August 2002, when he allegedly attacked his mother. He allegedly stabbed her seventy-two times, leaving her with fatal injuries. He was charged with murder, but has since been found incompetent to stand trial, and is currently in a mental institution.

The deceased mother’s husband, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the treating psychiatrist and the lawsuit claimed that the treating psychiatrist’s negligence caused his son’s condition to deteriorate, causing him to fly into a psychotic rage and kill his – the plaintiff’s- wife. The doctor argued that the lawsuit should not be allowed to proceed because of a law that prevents families of criminal suspects from profiting off wrongdoing. A judge ruled in his favor, but that decision was reversed by the Court Of Appeals. The Georgia Supreme Court is now considering the case.

The elements of a medical malpractice lawsuit that the plaintiff must prove in order to prevail are:

  • That the defendant, usually your doctor nurse or hospital, owed a duty or care to the injured person. Doctors have a duty to provide their patients with a certain level of care, so as to prevent arm;
  • The defendant breached this duty of care;
  • The patient was injured as a direct result of the breach; and
  • The patient suffered damages, such as medical bills, physical pain and suffering and lost wages, due to their injury.

Obviously, this case has other legal elements to sort out and does not fall into the “basic elements” area of medical malpractice.

Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured by suspected medical malpractice and would like discuss your case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.