Is it possible to go after a behavioral health center for negligence?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is it possible to go after a behavioral health center for negligence?

Last month, I had my husband Baker Acted for alchohol abuse as well as severe depression and anxiety. I felt like he was on the verge of hurting himself. I won’t go into all the examples for times sake. He was taken to a facility. After he arrived I explained to the intake person that he was on high doses of anti-depressants and anxiety medications. I was told throughout his stay that he was receiving one on one counseling and was working with a psychiatrist to get his meds straight. He was there for 14 days. During this time he never received counseling and met with a psychiatrist 1 time for 15 minutes. They did not give him any of his anti-depressants. He was removed from them cold turkey. When I asked why he wasn’t given these I was told we don’t trust an addict. OK, I get that, but what about calling his pharmacy or primary care doctor to verify. It has been 5 weeks since he was released and mentally and emotionally he is far worse than when he supposedly received treatment. His blood pressure has been very high ever since. We have been advised that this is one of the side effects of being removed from his particular medication cold turkey. He has a form of PTSD following this treatment. What was supposed to be helpful only made things worse due to the negligence.

Asked on June 25, 2019 under Malpractice Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, a behavioral center can commit malpractice if they provide care that is negligent, or careless. And the behavior you describe seems like it would be negligent: no counseling, taking him cold turkey with no or miminal supervision, etc.
The question is, is it worth pursuing legal action? Malpractice cases are expensive--above and beyond the lawyer's fee (you really want an attorney for a malpractice case, though many lawyers will handle them on a "contingency" basis--i.e. the lawyer is only paid if you win), you need to hire medical experts (e.g. substance abuse counselors or psychiatrists) who can examine your husband, right a report, and testify in court, and as you can imagine, such do not work inexpensively. On the other hand, you can only recover compensation for the provable and quantifiable long-lasting or permanent harm or life impairment suffered (technically, you can get compensation for a short period of impairment, but the amount would be so small as to not be worth pursuing) and for the additional medical bills you incurred due to the malpractice. If your husband, as we hope, recovers well and in a reasonably short period of time, there would be no point to legal action: you would not get enough to justify it. 
A good idea would be to consult with a malpractice attorney--many will offer a free consultation to evaluate a case, and you can confirm this before making the appointment--to see if your case is economically worthwhile. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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