Leight v. Univ. of Pittsburgh Physicians

In Leight v. Univ. of Pittsburgh Physicians, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt with third-party liability under the Mental Health Procedure Act, 50 P.S. § 7101et seq., in the context of preliminary objections. The case arose when a mentally-ill man went into a hospital and shot several people, including the plaintiff. The plaintiff survived and filed suit. Among the named defendants were medical professionals and organizations that treated the gunman. Those medical defendants had discussed starting the involuntary commitment process against the gunman in the days and weeks before the shooting but never actually started the legal process. These claims were premised on the defendants’ supposed “gross negligence” under 50 P.S. § 7114 of the MHPA. The defendants filed preliminary objections claiming that they owed no duty to the plaintiff under the MHPA because the act does not cover situations where a patient is receiving voluntary out-patient treatment. Here, the gunman was receiving just that: voluntary out-patient treatment. Though the medical defendants thought about starting involuntary in-patient treatment — which the MHPA does cover — the Court held that “mere thoughts, consideration, or steps short of the mandated [legal] prerequisites for initiating an involuntary emergency examination lie outside of a [MHPA] cause of action.”

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