Doc rejected blame for patient's suicide
|Failure to Admit, Medical Malpractice - Premature Discharge, Wrongful Death|
|Donna Ballek as Administrator of the Estate of Frank Ballek, Deceased and Donna Ballek, Individually v. Lilian Aldana-Bernier, M.D. Ernst G. Severe, M.D., John/Jane Doe, M.D., Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, No. 21267/08|
|Queens Supreme, NY|
|Duane A. Hart
- Leslie D. Kelmachter; The Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm L.L.P.; New York, NY, for Donna Ballek, Estate of Frank Ballek
- Paul F. Callan; Callan, Koster, Brady & Brennan, L.L.P.; New York, NY, for Lilian Aldana-Bernier
- Michael B. Lehrman; Arshack, Hajek & Lehrman, PLLC; New York, NY, for Ernst Severe, Jamaica Hospital Medical Center
- Robert Levy M.D.; Psychiatry; New York, NY called by: Paul Callan
- Professional Risk Management Services Inc. for Aldana-Bernier
On Sept. 18, 2006, plaintiff's decedent Frank Ballek, a 42-year-old unemployed man, departed his mother's home, which was located in Queens. Ballek, who suffered alcoholism and bipolar disorder, stated that he simply intended to purchase cigarettes. He never returned. On Oct. 7, 2006, his corpse was found hanging from a tree in a wooded area in the Forest Park section of Queens. His death was deemed a suicide.
Ballek's disappearance occurred four days after he had been discharged from Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, in Queens. Ballek, who had previously attempted suicide, was brought to the hospital in an intoxicated state. His wife had apparently told police officers that he had threatened her and another woman with a knife and threatened to hurt himself. He was discharged without having been admitted for treatment, though he was advised to return to a counselor who had previously provided treatment of his alcoholism.
Ballek's widow, Donna Ballek, acting individually and as the administrator of her husband's estate, sued Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and two doctors who were believed to have been involved in the hospital's treatment of her husband, Lilian Aldana-Bernier and Ernst Severe. The plaintiffs alleged that Aldana-Bernier and Severe failed to properly treat Mr. Ballek, that their failures constituted malpractice, and that Jamaica Hospital Medical Center was vicariously liable for the actions of Aldana-Bernier and Severe.
Severe was dismissed, and the matter proceeded to a trial against Aldana-Bernier and Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Plaintiffs' counsel claimed that Aldana-Bernier knew that Mr. Ballek had previously attempted suicide. She contended that Ballek should have been admitted to the hospital, and she claimed that his discharge should not have been authorized without the formulation of a more precise method of treating his alcoholism.
Aldana-Bernier contended that Ballek denied having threatened his wife, his own safety or that of anyone else. She claimed that she consulted Ballek's mother and a counselor who had previously treated his alcoholism, and she contended that Ballek was sober when he was discharged. The defense's expert psychiatrist opined that Aldana-Bernier acted appropriately and provided an appropriate plan of post-discharge action.
Defense counsel also suggested that Donna Ballek, who is deaf and suffers resultant impairment of her speech, may not have properly articulated her husband's actions when communicating with police officers during the incident that led to Ballek's hospitalization.
Ballek, 42, died during the fall of 2006. His death was deemed a suicide, though its date could not be determined. Plaintiffs' counsel claimed that Ballek's death was a result of Aldana-Bernier's failure to address psychological problems.
Ballek was survived by his wife and three children. His estate sought recovery of wrongful-death damages that included damages for the children's loss of parental guidance. Ballek's widow presented a derivative claim.
Defense counsel contended that Mr. Ballek's death was a suicide caused by alcoholism; not a result of untreated psychological problems.
The jury rendered a defense verdict.
Plaintiffs' counsel has moved for a new trial.
This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiffs' counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.