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Patient Suicide May Lead to Florida Medical Malpractice Claims

Oldham & Smith Nov. 15, 2016

The Florida Supreme Court recently found that Robert Granicz could proceed with a lawsuit against the doctor of his wife, Jacqueline Granicz, who died in 2008 at the age of 55 after committing suicide. The question before the court was whether the doctor could potentially be held responsible for the wife’s suicide after treating her for depression.

The court found that the medical malpractice suit could move forward because there was a question as to whether the physician treated Mrs. Granicz in accordance with the proper standard of care. If you lost a loved one because he or she was not treated properly by a mental health professional, you may have a wrongful death claim against that individual’s doctor. Call Florida attorneys Oldham & Smith today to learn about your legal rights and options.

Chirillo v. Granicz

Robert Granicz filed a lawsuit against the family doctor, Joseph S. Chirillo, Jr., MD, and the medical group who treated his wife’s depression. Mrs. Granicz had been treated by her doctor for depression for some time. She had taken Effexor for approximately 3 years but stopped in 2008 due to side effects from the drug. She called the doctor and left a message regarding how she felt and her cessation of the drugs with an assistant. Without seeing her or speaking with her directly, Chirillo offered Mrs. Granicz a sample and prescription of Lexapro. Though she picked the new medication up from his office, she did not see the doctor and was found dead a day later.

In his lawsuit, Granicz claims that the physician breached the medical standard of care when he:

  • Did not recognize Mrs. Granicz’s depression

  • Did not identify her change in symptoms

  • Did not properly evaluate Mrs. Granicz’s need for new medication

  • Changed her medication while understanding this could increase the risk of suicide

  • Did not refer her to a medical professional trained in treating depression

  • Did not notice her need for immediate medical assistance

The physician argued that he did not have a duty to prevent an unforeseeable suicide. The circuit court agreed with him. However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision. The court found that whether the physician had a specific type of duty to prevent the suicide was not the question. Instead, there was already a standard duty of care required and the legal issue was whether Mrs. Granicz was treated in accordance with this standard. Whether or not Mrs. Granicz’s suicide was foreseeable and whether she received the proper treatment will now be determined at trial.

Florida’s Medical Standard of Care

A physician’s duty of care owed to a patient may vary depending on the specific circumstances. For instance, a higher duty may be present if the patient resides in a health care facility or is seeking treatment from a specialist. However, all physicians owe their patients a standard level of care. Under the law, doctors must provide their patients with the type and level of care an ordinary and prudent health care professional, who has the same training and experience, would provide under similar circumstances in the same community. This means family physicians in Florida owe their patients the same care other Florida family doctors would provide knowing the same facts regarding the patients.

The Tavares Medical Malpractice Lawyers of Oldham & Smith Can Help

When you bring a medical malpractice claim in court, either for your own injuries or based on your loved one’s death, you and your attorney must establish the physician’s standard of care at the time of treatment and then demonstrate how the doctor’s treatment did not live up to that standard. Under the recent Supreme Court ruling, if you lost a loved one to suicide, you may bring a medical malpractice action against your loved one’s physician, arguing that the doctor breached the standard of care which ultimately led to the suicide.

Whether or not you succeed in this case and recover for your loss can depend on having a skilled medical malpractice attorney on your side. The lawyers of Oldham & Smith have decades of experience with a wide range of medical malpractices cases and are able to aggressively represent you in court. Contact or call Oldham & Smith today to learn more.