This turnaround it not really fair play: When you’re a hospital being sued by a mental patient, you turn around and demand that the patient reimburse you for his many years of inpatient care.
The New York Times chronicled this disturbing phenomenon in a Page One story Saturday that had the headline “When Mental Patients Pursue Damages, Hospitals Send Bill.”
Here’s the deal. Daniel Langevin, then 35, had been in the Rochester Psychiatric Center for years. In 1995 he got deathly ill there, and was discovered unconscious with a near-fatal infection in his brain and other organs.
Langevin sued New York State, which ran his hospital. But venerable New York reacted by ordering Langevin to pay it $1.7 million for his decade of treatment for his mental illness.
And guess what? A judge agreed with the state, and Langevin wound up not getting anything. It’s a disgrace.
“For patients in state-run mental hospitals — people too ill to live on their own and too poor to pay for their care – the state can drain court-awarded damages, effectively deducting the cost of their stays in the very hospitals that failed or abused them,” The Times wrote.
In New York, they call that chutzpah.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office declined to comment on the case. It should be ashamed of itself, especially since The Times claims that New York has a reputation for “squeezing” patients who sue for damages.
Langevin’s case is not the only one that The Times talks about. Here is another one that may get your blood boiling: A 20-year-old woman was raped at a Staten Island, N.Y., psychiatric facility in 1992. She was awarded $250,000 six years later, but a judge deducted $101,000 from it. That money was to reimburse the state for the services it had rendered to the woman, the rape victim.
According to The Times, the judge said “that a hospital might be negligent on some days while providing valuable service on others.”
That’s the kind of logic that would make sense in an insane asylum.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
email@example.com :: 800-992-9447 :: Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.