Plaintiff was a 40-year-old woman who sought the treatment of a psychiatrist for depression. The psychiatrist, after two years of therapy, ended the treatment relationship and began a personal relationship with plaintiff which included living together with her family. During the personal relationship, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant became increasingly abusive which increased when they began living together as he became controlling of her entire family. Further, she was becoming more strung out on drugs the psychiatrist gave her to calm down as she became increasingly upset. Plaintiff alleged that the defendant finally abandoned her when he became tired of the plaintiff and her children. By this time, she was addicted to tranquilizers and needed to be hospitalized for detox.
The defendant admitted the personal relationship with the plaintiff; however, stated that therapy had clearly terminated when the relationship began and that at that point, the plaintiff could freely consent to entering into the relationship with the defendant and that this should be seen as an unwarranted palimony suit as opposed to a therapist abuse/medical malpractice action. Further, the defendant’s insurance company relied on exclusions claiming that it did not owe any money to the plaintiff due to the sexual abuse by the defendant. The defendant produced home movies indicating this was a happy little family and not some Svengali-like takeover of the family.
A prior attorney was not able to obtain an offer from the defendant. The law offices of Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, was brought in; expert witnesses were retained to perform a “debriefing” of the plaintiff which indicated that the defendant had committed multiple acts of negligence and malpractice during the time of treatment which “set the plaintiff up” for the sexual relationship which was to follow. Further, the law firm was able to obtain testimony which indicated that the damage to the plaintiff was not caused by the sexual relationship which, in fact, did not injure her, but was caused by the therapist’s malpractice which destabilized the plaintiff and her relationship with her own family and caused her to become addicted to prescription medication. These acts should be covered by insurance. As to the home movies showing the happy family, the law firm argued that common sense tells you that a family puts on its best face or gets embarrassed when a camera is on, and home movies are not a reliable indicator of a person’s or family’s stress level.
RESULT: $490,000 settlement on behalf of plaintiff