COA finds medical provider made ‘reasonable effort’

August 25, 2015

Telling the victim’s father it could not infer legislative intent, the Indiana Court of Appeals found a mental health care treatment center did comply with the state’s statutory requirements.

John Davis Sr. filed a negligence complaint against Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living Inc., a community mental health center, after one of its patients killed his son, John Davis Jr.

Edgewater, which specializes in treating psychiatric crises, had requested emergency detention of its patient Jamal Gore. Once the emergency detention was granted by the Gary City Court, Edgewater faxed the order to the Gary Police Department.

About a week after the detention order was issued, Gore killed the younger Davis. Subsequently, the father filed a complaint, alleging Edgewater did not exercise due diligence to follow up on the emergency detention order or ensure its enforcement.

The Lake Superior Court granted Edgewater’s motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(C). In his appeal, Davis argued the mental health provider was not civilly immune from the lawsuit.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that Edgewater had met the “reasonable effort” requirement to notify law enforcement as outlined in Indiana Code 34-30-16-1 & 2. In fact, the appellate panel held Edgewater’s actions exceeded a “reasonable effort” by actually notifying Gary police and noting the department had received the order.

Davis’ arguments, the Court of Appeals said, were an attempt to broaden the “reasonable effort” language in the statute by imposing a duty on Edgewater to follow up and ensure the police took action.

“In construing a statute, it is just as important to recognize what a statute does not say as it is to recognize what it does say,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the court. “Because the statute only directs a mental health provider to undertake ‘reasonable efforts’ without more in order to be discharged of its duty and to be entitled to civil immunity, and is silent as to any further action on the part of the mental health provider, we decline to enlarge the statutory language to incorporate a duty as suggested by Davis.”

The case is John B. Davis, Sr., as administrator of the Estate of John B. Davis, Jr., Deceased v. Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living, Inc., 45A05-1412-CT-588.  



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