Noteworthy case: Pennsylvania man awarded $1.1 million for involuntary commitment (2003)
October 20, 2010
An Oil City man has been awarded more than $1.1 million in damages in a civil suit against Northwest Medical Center in which the man claimed he was falsely imprisoned for more than seven days in 1993.
Sources said the damages, which were determined by a jury on Monday, are some of the biggest ever awarded in Venango County. The verdict was reached following a civil jury trial last week in Venango County Court.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 1996, claimed Roy E. Lund was committed against his will at the hospital Nov. 23, 1993, for emergency mental examination and treatment.
A civil complaint filed at the Venango County Courthouse states that the Oil City Police Department arrived at Lund's home after receiving a call from Lund's wife alleging that he threatened her life.
Officers put Lund in handcuffs and took him to Northwest Medical Center in Oil City, where he was involuntarily committed for emergency medical examination and treatment, the papers indicate.
According to the lawsuit, "the allegations which were the basis for Lund's involuntary commitment were false."
State law required that Lund be discharged from the hospital within five days from his time of commitment, the papers said.
Lund said hospital personnel filed an application for extended involuntary treatment less than a day after he was committed and that he was assigned a lawyer against his will to represent him at a hearing scheduled on the application for extended involuntary treatment.
The lawsuit states a hearing was conducted Nov. 30, 1993, approximately two days past the maximum five-day commitment period, and in violation of a state law that mandated Lund was entitled to a hearing within 24 hours of the application for extended treatment.
"During Lund's involuntary commitment at Northwest, psychological testing revealed Lund's behavior was not consistent with allegations that Lund was rageful or assaultive," the suit said.
The lawsuit further states that the stress from the loss of a family member, who had recently committed suicide, and marital problems contributed to an "angry, agitated episode" and that he was "quite reserved and conforming" and that "no further psychological assessment was needed."
"Upon Lund's information and belief, Northwest had no factual basis upon which to conclude Lund's treatment needed to be extended beyond 120 hours (five days) pursuant to (the Mental Health Procedures Act)," the papers said.
Lund was discharged from the hospital following the hearing.
The jury unanimously found that Northwest Medical Center violated the Mental Health Procedures Act during Lund's involuntary commitment to its psychiatric ward and that Lund suffered harm as a result of the hospital's conduct.
Jurors also voted 11-1 that the hospital was "grossly negligent" in its violation of the Mental Health Procedures Act, that the hospital falsely imprisoned Lund, and that Lund suffered injuries as a result of Northwest Medical Center's conduct. Jurors also voted 11-1 that the hospital's conduct was a factual cause in bringing about Lund's harm.
The jury decided 10-2 that the conduct of Northwest Medical Center that caused damage to Lund was outrageous and done with reckless indifference to his rights.
The jury awarded Lund $750,000 in compensatory damages and $425,000 in punitive damages.
Source: Michelle Sottiaux, "Man awarded $1.1 million in suit against hospital," Oil City Derrick, June 17, 2003.
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