(CN) - Two doctors are not liable for the wrongful death of a woman whose husband was suspected of murdering her, a California appeals court ruled.
Jesse Crow was suspected of killing his wife, Ryann Bunnell, and dumping her body in the San Francisco Bay with the help of other individuals, according to court records. He committed suicide while in jail awaiting charges.
Brunell's mother, Pam Pipitone, sued Crow's father, Dr. Dean Crow, and Dr. Don Williams, who treated Bunnell several months before her death after Crow had run over her foot with his truck.
Pipitone claimed that the doctors violated the law by failing to report suspected abuse, although Bunnell had not told the doctors about the incident.
The trial court ruled in the doctors' favor, and the San Jose-based Sixth District California Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in a Feb. 23 ruling written by Justice Conrad Rushing.
The couple met in 2009 and got married after dating for only one month. The murder took place less than six months later.
After the truck incident, Crow called his father. Bunnell told Dr. Crow that her foot had been run over by Crow's truck. The couple portrayed the injury as an accident that took place when Crow was backing up the vehicle.
Later that day, Bunnell saw Williams, an orthopedic surgeon. Bunnell told him that her foot was run over by a drunk driver.
Several days later, Pipitone learned from her other daughter that Crow had run over Bunnell 's foot. Crow agreed to pay $5,000 to cover her injuries in exchange for her agreeing in writing that the incident was an accident. Pipitone also signed the contract as a witness.
In her lawsuit, Pipitone stated that Dr. Crow should have been able to detect the abuse due to his knowledge of his son's "violent behavior," and that he worked with his son to conceal domestic violence.
Dr. Williams argued in response that Pipitone had reported the suspected abuse of her daughter to the police, whose investigation did not lead to the prevention of Bunnell's murder. The trial court agreed.
On appeal, Pipitone pointed to a statement by Dr. Crow about his son that "if something doesn't go right, he becomes quite vicious and fights."
Rushing ruled that the statement was not enough to overturn the lower court's decision.
"Dr. Crow's statement about his son may cause speculation, but it does not create conflicting evidence that Dr. Crow knew or reasonably suspected that Ryann's foot injury was the result of assault or abuse," the judge wrote.
Rushing added that Pipitone did not prove "that had Dr. Crow and/or Dr. Williams reported suspected abuse, a resulting investigation would more likely than not have achieved a different or better outcome than the investigation that actually took place."
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