Plaintiff in this case was a 35-year-old woman who had been in psychotherapy for two years with the defendant psychiatrist when the psychiatrist terminated the treatment and several months later entered into a romantic relationship with the plaintiff in which they lived together for a short period of time. Eventually, the plaintiff found the relationship to be abusive and sought legal help wondering if she could bring a lawsuit even if “I seduced my psychiatrist.”
The law in California prohibits a psychiatrist from entering into a relationship with a patient for at least two years after therapy has terminated and there was evidence of nonsexual negligence, so the law offices of Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, took on the case.
Fortunately, plaintiff’s therapy sessions with defendant were legally taped. After transcribing the tapes and carefully reviewing them, it became clear that the psychiatrist, through inappropriate psychotherapy techniques and abuse of the transference phenomenon, had been “setting up” the plaintiff to engage in the sexual relationship for the last eight months of therapy. Transference is the process by which a patient, without realizing it, “transfers” feelings and perceptions of significant people in the patient’s childhood, usually parents, onto the therapist. This makes a patient extremely vulnerable to abuse by the therapist. Despite strong protestations by the psychiatrist’s insurance company that the sexual misconduct was excluded under their insurance policy, the law firm was able to settle the case with a combination of payments from the insurance company and the psychiatrist.
RESULT: $500,000 settlement on behalf of plaintiff