(CN) – A mental health patient can sue her doctor’s office after a former patient burst into a group therapy session and opened fire, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled.
Elizabeth Dawe was in group therapy in June 1999 when Joseph Brooks burst in and killed Dr. Reuven Bar-Levav. Brooks also killed a patient and wounded Dawe before turning the gun on himself.
Dawe sued the doctor’s estate and the mental health practice that he shared with his wife, Dr. Leora Bar-Levav, claiming they failed to warn her of or protect her against a serious threat.
The trial court ruled for Dawe, but the court of appeals reversed the decision, ruling that Michigan law limits a medical provider’s duty to warn or protect third parties.
The case proceeded to the Michigan Supreme Court, where Justice Michael Cavanagh overturned the decision.
“Nothing in the statute indicates that the Legislature intended to completely abrogate a mental health professional’s common-law special relationship duty to his or her patients,” Cavanaugh wrote, sending the case back to the appeals court.