Richard Korn and Mike Donelson obtained a defense verdict in favor of their clients, a psychiatrist and his corporation, in a four-day medical malpractice, wrongful death trial in Madison County, Illinois. The presiding judge was the Honorable Dennis R. Ruth.
In the case, the plaintiff alleged that her husband of sixteen years committed suicide as a result of negligent care and treatment provided by Richard and Mike’s client. In particular, it was alleged that the defendant psychiatrist overprescribed the prescription drug Alprazolam (aka Xanax) to the decedent over a period of several years and that, as a result, the decedent committed suicide by way of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The plaintiff’s expert witness, who was board certified in both psychiatry and addiction psychiatry, claimed that because of the decedent’s long-standing use of Xanax, he became dependent on increasingly higher doses over the years. He also claimed that the decedent required the drug in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, including but not limited to irritability. Consequently, on the morning of his death, after he argued with his wife, and experiencing “Xanax withdrawal,” he took his own life.
Richard and Mike developed a theme in the case which demonstrated that the decedent suffered from a nearly life-long mental illness, a disease just like cancer and diabetes. The defendant psychiatrist provided quality psychiatric care to the decedent for over nine years, including psychotherapy (cognitive, behavioral and supportive therapy), referrals to additional counseling, and the prescription of various medications. The care and treatment helped the decedent manage, cope with, and live with his disease during the nine years of their physician-patient relationship. Indeed, despite numerous suicidal and homicidal threats over the years, the decedent never took his own life, in part because of the care being provided by Richard and Mike’s client. Ultimately, the decedent took his own life, not because of the prescription drug Xanax or because of any other act or omission of the defendant. Rather, the decedent succumbed to his mental illness.
The Madison County, Illinois jury of six men and six women deliberated for only two hours before reaching a unanimous defense verdict.