Court: Mental health workers immune from suit in suicide case

The family of a Stillwater teenager who took his own life after being denied voluntary admission to the psychiatric unit at a Twin Cities hospital will not be able to proceed with a negligence suit against the hospital the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today.

The court agreed with attorneys for Allina Health, who claim the health care workers at United Hospital who evaluated Kirk Lloyd are granted immunity under Minnesota’s Commitment and Treatment Act, reversing a district court ruling.

Lloyd, 17, killed himself in May 2010, two days after he was sent home from United’s emergency room, where he had waited most of the day for help. The United staff discussed outpatient options with Lloyd, set up an appointment with his school therapist for the following day, and had Lloyd sign a discharge recommendation which included a statement indicating that Lloyd was not a danger to himself or anyone else.

Three days earlier, Lloyd had wrapped himself in a blanket and set it ablaze.

The court derailed the Lloyd family’s lawsuit today because it’s barred under Minnesota law, which states:

All persons acting in good faith, upon either actual knowledge or information thought by them to be reliable, who act pursuant to any provision of this chapter or who procedurally or physically assist in the commitment of any individual, pursuant to this chapter, are not subject to any civil or criminal liability under this chapter.

“Because the CTA contains a section detailing the procedure to follow when determining whether to grant a request for voluntary admission … (Allina employees) were acting “pursuant to any provision” when they decided to refuse Lloyd’s request for admittance to inpatient treatment. As such, the CTA immunity provision is applicable to their voluntary-admission decision,” Judge Peter Reyes wrote in today’s ruling (pdf).

Last October, by the way, Lloyd’s younger brother, then 16, also took his own life.