Psychiatrist's estate could be liable for injuries, Michigan Supreme Court rules

March 31, 2010

Southfield-based Bar-Levav and Associates P.C. and the estate of its slain founder could be liable for more than $646,000 for injuries during the shooting that took his life, under a Michigan Supreme Court ruling Tuesday.

The high court, in a unanimous decision, found that Michigan law did not relieve the estate Reuven Bar-Levav and the psychiatrist's estate of a duty to protect other patients from possible harm by Joseph Brooks in 1999.

Brooks, a patient of what was then Dr. Reuven Bar-Levav & Associates, came to the Southfield mental health practice with a gun and killed Bar-Levav and another patient and injured several others in a group therapy session before taking his own life.

Patient Elizabeth Dawe, who survived but was injured, and insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan sought damages for medical malpractice and breach of a duty to protect other patients from a known threat.

A physician at the practice had confiscated a gun from Brooks at least once after an alleged threat to kill an ex-girlfriend's mother prior to the incident.

An Oakland County jury awarded damages, but the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court and granted a directed verdict in favor of the defendants. The Supreme Court today reversed the appellate decision and returned it to the lower court.

President Justin Haas of Farmington Hills-based Haas & Goldstein P.C. and Mark Granzotto of Royal Oak-based Mark Granzotto P.C. represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Shareholder Noreen Slank of Southfield-based Collins, Einhorn, Farrell & Ulanoff P.C. represented the Bar-Levav estate, the mental health practice and its current president, Leora Bar-Levav, on appeal.

Source: Chad Halcom, "Psychiatrist's estate could be liable for injuries, Michigan Supreme Court rules," Crain's Detroit Business, March 30, 2010.


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