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Lawsuit Claims Psychiatric Ward Held Patient for 20 Years Based on Misdiagnosis

July 28, 2014

Mental hospitals are intended to be places of therapy and treatment for those suffering from mental illness. However, the poor condition of many mental health facilities because of underfunding has been well-documented. While the prospect of landing in a mental health facility that is short on funds and staff might be a disturbing proposition, the prospect is far more alarming if you are erroneously diagnosed and locked up for decades.

A recent lawsuit filed by a patient at a Nebraska psychiatric ward requests $33 million in damages and lost wages based on such allegations. The complaint alleges he was inaccurately diagnosed and forced to endure medical treatments that were not medically justified according to AP reports. The plaintiff John Montin claims he was sane during the entire twenty years he was locked up in a psychiatric ward.

Montin was originally committed to the facility in 1993 and only released last year when a regional doctor reviewed his case and determined he was misdiagnosed as delusional during the entire duration of his commitment to the facility. The doctor who reviewed the case and provided the medical opinion justifying Montin's release indicated that the misdiagnosis was related to a medication given to Montin. Montin was apparently delusional only for a brief period before he entered the psychiatric ward because of the side effects of a medication he was taking at the time.

The incident that led to Montin's commitment occurred in 1992 when he tried to take possession of a home that he claimed belonged to his ancestors. The police version of the event claimed that there was an 11 hour standoff and shootout although no one suffered injury. However, the incident was depicted quite differently at trial according to the Journal Star. At trial, the testimony indicated that Montin was met at the door of the home by occupants wielding shotguns. Testimony by police indicated they might have heard a single gunshot and that Montin hid in a ditch overnight.

The prosecutors dropped most of the charges against Montin, and the jurors acquitted him of attempted murder and a weapons charge. He was found not legally responsible on charges of use of a weapon and false imprisonment based on insanity. Doctors admitted Montin was committed to the psychiatric ward based solely on the police reports and that there was no review of the court records and testimony. Based on this incomplete review of the evidence, the doctors diagnosed Montin as delusional.

While no amount of money can truly compensate someone for being held improperly in a mental health facility for two decades, Mr. Montin may be able to obtain financial compensation based on negligence, medical malpractice, false imprisonment and other applicable legal theories. A significant damage award could assist Mr. Montin in reclaiming his life and holding the mental health facility accountable if it was negligent in its diagnosis and treatment of Mr. Montin.

If you or a family member has been the victim of medical malpractice or false imprisonment, our experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys might be able to help.

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.