Kind of like a fireman going into a house fire only to fond that the hose
hasn't been charged and no water comes out when he needs it to.
There is no defense. They're
obligated to follow federal law. There
should be guidelines in the jail manual that cover
that situation. THe other argument is that just
because the other shrinks didn't object doesn't make
I think the shrink should have KNOWN better,
especially with the nurse warning him.
However, the jail was obligated to provide a safe
workplace and I'd pound the OSHA General Duty Clause
drum - employer's obligation to provide a safe
workplace, employee's obligation to follow the rules
and work in a safe manner. My argument would be that
the doc's stupidity was less important than the facts
A. the jail didn't provide a safe workplace and/or
B. the jail didn't have appropriate safety rules for
the shrink to follow.
(Really, the doc would still be alive if he had used a
grain of common sense, but they don't teach you that
in psychiatry school...) OSHA General Duty Clause
would be my legal story and I'd stick to it... :) :)
You don't have to be in federal court to invoke
federal law, where state law is silent, to establish
liability. If the state has a state version of OSHA,
so much the better. Wish we had a bit more time for an
OSHA specialist to inspect the site and offer an
opinion. There was a personal injury case against
Huntsville Hospital a few years ago, litigated
OSHA: psychiatrist murdered at jail
That's why i was interested in seeing if OSHA had any thoughts on this, as it
would seem to be something they would deal with...
In spite of warning, Doc asked to be alone, failed to establish
rapport, was leaving room, inmate strangled him from behind, Doc did
not cry out, no observer would have had time or sufficient warning to
Sounds to me like they're going for "plausible deniability", as the nurse
wasn't DOC, but private, if i'm not mistaken....
I think it depends really. A construction worker who comes to a site
without a hard hat is an idiot. But at the same time, shouldn't he
reasonably expect his employer to provide other safety mechanisms,
like harnasses for exterior wall and roof work, for example, or
scaffolding and railing for temporary sites? He SHOULD be held
responsible for a basic thing like his hard hat, but should he REALLY
be respobsible for ensuring his employer has provided a safe workplace
to begin with?
And thats where I land here. Perhaps I am out of touch with the
world, but this is the FIRST time I have ever heard someone suggest
that a body alarm is standard equipment for a psychiatrist. Rather,
its always seemed obvious to me that if a psychiatrist is called into
a situation to evaluate a dangerous offender, then the people in
charge of the facility have taken ALL necessary precautions. I just
can't take the onus off the facility ... whatever they say now, if a
nurse informed the psychiatrist he was potentially dangerous, the
facility KNEW his state before they sent the doctor in. Therefore,
they are responsible for ensuring the interview was in a safe room,
and the doctor can reasonably assume that those precautions were
taken, or rather, he should have been able to assume that.
Actually, I would think that regardless of whether they knew of the
inmates dangerous propensities beforehand, the DOC should be responsible
for providing BASIC safeguards for EVERY encounter between an inmate and
visitor, professional or otherwise. If there was prior knowledge of
specific danger then additional precautions would be warranted, but even
the basics were missing from this situation. Knowledge on their part of
the person in particular really shouldn't play much part in this, imo,
now that I think about it.
These folks really should have settled. "The incident about which
the plaintiff complains was totally unforeseeable…" (Uh huh,
sure. "Totally unforeseeable" the day pigs start enlisting for
fighter pilot training, maybe. Until then, forget it!)
> Trial date set for lawsuit against sheriff in death of
> By CHRIS W. COLBY, cwcolby@n...
> April 29, 2005
> The lawsuit alleging the Collier County Sheriff's Office was
negligent in the
> 2001 strangling death of Bonita Springs psychiatrist Dr. David
> the jail now has a firm trial date.
> U.S. District Judge John E. Steele set May 9 to hear the wrongful
> lawsuit Hoyer's widow, Rae, filed in 2002 against the Sheriff's
Office. Six jurors
> will decide the trial in a federal courtroom in Fort Myers.
> "The judge is picking the jury, and we're going to be trying it
> week, "said David Gaspari, a Palm Beach attorney representing
> Gaspari said the case is unlikely to settle. The issue never went
> mediator, who could have heard both sides' arguments, issued a
ruling in favor
> of either and proposed a monetary settlement.
> Fort Lauderdale attorney Bruce Jolly, representing the Sheriff's
> unavailable for comment Wednesday on the trial date, set the day
> The Sheriff's Office, in court papers, has denied responsibility
> slaying of David Hoyer, 57.
> Hoyer was attacked and strangled by inmate Rodrigus Patten during
> competency evaluation Jan. 3, 2001.
> The interview took place in a frequently used, soundproof
> Court records show Patten wasn't handcuffed or shackled, and the
> within the field of vision of any guards. Gaspari has said Hoyer
was never told of
> an alarm panel on the wall behind him.
> Patten was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life
> Jan. 21.
> The suit alleges the Sheriff's Office â€" as the agency in charge
> and maintaining the jail â€" was negligent in "causing or
contributing to the
> death of" Hoyer.
> The lawsuit doesn't seek a specific dollar amount for damages.
> was moved from state to federal court last year so Florida's
$100,000 cap on
> liability damages for public agencies wouldn't apply if Hoyer wins
> The suit moved after Gaspari added a federal claim alleging the
> violated her husband's civil rights.
> Deputies found Hoyer collapsed in the room after Patten alerted
> may have had a heart attack. He died three days later at Naples
> Hospital. An autopsy revealed he died of manual strangulation.
> Court records related to Patten's criminal case say Hoyer was told
> an antisocial personality disorder and was considered extremely
> However, the doctor never requested any restraints for Patten.
> The defense argued the Sheriff's Office "would assert that the
> which the plaintiff complains was totally unforeseeable to this
> and therefore this defendant had no opportunity to take steps to
> death of Hoyer)."
This is not a slam dunk, but a complex case where several interplayin factors
1) This was a county jail, and my impression was that the inmate was on
remand. not yet convicted.
It appears that the inmate was not handcuffed or shackled, as he would be if
However, when I visited a client on Florida'a death row, the man was
handcuffed and shackled
until I requested that the shackles be removed. We were in a lawyer's
visiting room for about
four hours, with the guards looking into the the room through the glass door
every fre minutes.
It also appears that no evaluation was made of this inmate by a competent
person before this
shrink made his visit. It is not known what happened in that visiting room
that led up tothe
shrink's death, and how the inmate got into the hall. Negligence on the jail
2) If this inmate is declared incompetent or insane, he cannot be held
accountable; The jail
staff has some responsibity in not protecting the shrink even in the most
rudimentary manner. The
attending nurse was concerned, and voiced her concern to the shrink, who
foolhardedly was was
unprepared to deal with an attack. He has to be accountable for his casual
3) If the law in the state permits, it can be treated a a Worker's
Compensation case, as well as a
section 1983 wrongful death case. Strategic decisions should determine how
There is a weak defense, but a question of jurisdiction, and the way the
courts will treat the
mitigating factorsby the shrink. The right court can mean the difference
between winning big
bucks or a minimum sum.
All doors to the outside open out, all doors inside open in. Check all the
bedroom and bathroom doors in your house.
This is so you can break into the room.
The cockpit getting stormed because the doors are not secure ... (not
re-inforced, no katy bar lock) ... just a flimsy excuse of a door that is more for
show and convenience than it is for security. Think pre-9/11 cockpits.
Sorry, that is all I can think of :(
Don't know, but if I am on the jury, I am finding "assumption of risk".....
.. your guy signed a contract and evidently did not specify specifics for
his own protection, he was aware of the dangers (or should have been), he
should have read the case history and familiarized himself with the inmates
peculiarities. By contract...... the doc was an employee and should have
familiarized himself with the layout of the premises and what was or was not
available for his safety ..........I would say that he assumed the risk and
placed himself in harms way. Should the Sheriff kept a close look out or
posted an officer in the room with the inmate and doc........... arguably,
but ultimately, the doc set the scene by his own negligence.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]