Family Sues after Man on Suicide Watch is Found Dead
The family of Duane Scott Riddick has filed a lawsuit against Centerstone of Florida in Bradenton after the man, who was self-admitted to the psychiatric hospital for suicidal thoughts, was found dead in his room hanging by a bed sheet. While Riddick initially had voluntarily admitted himself, Cornerstone petition the court to hold him involuntarily until his symptoms could be reduced. Three days later, Riddick was found dead in his room.
Normal protocol for dealing with patients on suicide watch, particularly those who you lobbied the court to retain against their will, is to check on them every fifteen minutes. Riddick was dead for ten hours before anyone noticed.
Medical Malpractice or Simple Negligence?
One reason to follow this case is the question of whether or not the court will rule that Riddick was the victim of medical negligence or simple negligence. The Sheriff’s Department has determined that there were no crimes committed in the course of this incident but did comment that there was clear failure to uphold an even basic standard of medical care.
The staffer on duty when Riddick died, who was fired subsequent to an investigation, told investigators and the family’s lawyer that not every patient on suicide watch was check in on every 15 minutes. Some were considered elevated and they were checked every 15 minutes while others were “allowed to sleep”. The staffer said that he was told let Riddick get some sleep.
The man, who was identified as a “mental health tech”, told investigators that techs were given a verbal report on who needed to be checked continuously and who should be allowed to rest undisturbed. Riddick’s file, which was made available to investigators, listed him as requiring “continuous observation.”
The reason why this question is important is that it will determine how this case will be handled. Negligence cases are much easier to litigate in Florida and have far fewer restrictions and regulations than medical malpractice lawsuits. The question will come down to whether or not the staffer who failed to keep an eye on Riddick committed medical negligence or if it was basic negligence.
The line is not as clear as it might. A recent Supreme Court decision determined that a young deaf girl who was an inpatient in a hospital that dealt with patients who were both deaf and had psychiatric problems was the victim of basic negligence and not medical malpractice. When the girl became agitated, staff attempted to subdue her using techniques that they had been taught as a part of their training. When the girl lost her leg as a result of their “techniques” the Supreme Court ruled it was not medical malpractice because it did not require a “medical decision.”
The court may similarly rule that Cornerstone’s employee, and by extension Cornerstone, is guilty of negligence and not medical negligence.
Contact a Jacksonville, FL Wrongful Death Attorney
If you’re loved one has been taken from you as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact the Jacksonville wrongful death attorneys at Gillette Law today. We can help you recover damages for your loss and hopefully prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.