Doctors, hospitals have duty to protect the public

Wrongful death cases rely on the idea that someone's negligence -- a failure to uphold an obligation to take reasonable precautions against a specific danger -- led to someone else's death.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand the defendant's legal obligation, or duty, to the deceased -- unless you understand the nuances of the law.

For example, the estates of three homicide victims have filed a wrongful death suit against a Dayton-area hospital. The plaintiffs allege that the hospital failed in its duty to protect the public against someone who was clearly homicidal.

Medical professionals, including psychiatrists, have a legal obligation to try to protect the public if they're alerted to someone's credible threat of violence against either themselves or another person.

In this case, a 62-year-old man with a history of psychiatric problems and serious violence came to the hospital demanding medication and threatening to hurt people if he didn't get any.

Despite the fact that he'd been transported to the hospital by police after behaving violently at another treatment center, the psychiatrist on duty released the patient without ever personally speaking with him. He was also sent away without transportation or any plan for future treatment.

Hours later, he murdered three people.

The psychiatrist had based his decision to release the patient solely on the note from a social worker saying that the man didn't have a history of assault. In reality, he'd already served 25 years in prison for killing his girlfriend.

Despite the fact that the psychiatrist and others violated legal and hospital protocols, the hospital is denying that it was negligent.

If you're the survivor of a victim of intentional violence, it's always wise to dig into the circumstances of the murder.

If it turns out that someone could have -- and should have -- stopped the killer from acting, you should consider exploring all of your legal options for recovery. While nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, financial compensation may help your family maintain its security well into the future.

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