Killer Therapist to Pay Ex-Mistress $9.3 Million
(CN) - An Ohio psychiatrist who killed the husband of a patient with whom he was having an affair must pay $9.3 million in damages on the woman's wrongful death claim, the state appeals court ruled.
Jack Adams treated Michelle Burns for mental health issues and prescribed her narcotics and antidepressants. Their doctor-patient relationship eventually became sexual.
After Burns broke off the relationship, Adams stealthily entered Burns' home and killed her husband, Bobby.
After pointing the gun at Burns, Adams fled the home and kidnapped two women at gunpoint, forcing them to drive him to Kentucky.
Adams was eventually captured and convicted of murder, aggravated burglary and kidnapping.
Burns sued Adams for wrongful death on behalf of her husband's estate. The trial court ruled in her favor, awarding her $1.2 million in compensatory damages and $8.1 million in punitive damages.
Adams appealed, but the Ohio Court of Appeals held that because of his conviction, he could not argue that he was not liable for Bobby Burns' death.
"We are not convinced by Appellant's argument that extraordinary circumstances prevented him from having a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claim of innocence. Appellant bases this claim on his decision not to testify in the criminal trial. That was a strategic choice on his part," Judge Matthew W. McFarland wrote on the court's behalf.
Adams also argued that he was not allowed to use Burns' privileged medical records to advance his theory that Burns had actually killed her husband.
"Inasmuch as Appellant did not proffer the medical records at the civil trial, we do not find abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court," McFarland wrote.
In addition, Adams argued that he should have been granted a mistrial for Burns' attorney's comment at the start of the trial: "He's seated today in a suit, but he is here from prison, and will go back later on."
McFarland ruled that the comment did not warrant a mistrial.
"We find no material prejudice occurred because of counsel's remarks concerning Appellant's attire. As such, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for mistrial," McFarland wrote.
The judge also ruled that the $8.1 million award of punitive damages was not excessive.
"Here, the act of sneaking into the Burns' home with a loaded firearm, shooting Mr. Burns, and pointing the gun at Appellee demonstrates a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of other persons that has a great probability of causing substantial harm. We think Appellant's actions demonstrated a high degree of reprehensibility," he wrote.