Case highlights critical importance of identifying and treating mental illness
BRIDGEPORT, January 9, 2014 - A Waterbury Superior Court jury has awarded more than $8 million to the family of a Vernon man whose untreated mental illness resulted in a murder-suicide.
On June 2009, James Morrin, 45, fatally shot his wife Alice Morrin, 43, and then shot himself. A jury on Monday awarded $8,008,500 in damages to the family after finding against former Tolland physician Carl Koplin and Healthwise Medical Group.
"This case underscores that primary care providers, who are in a unique position to recognize early signs of mental health problems in their patients, need to be part of any discussion about effective intervention and treatment," said Joshua Koskoff of the Bridgeport-based law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, who represented the Morrin family. "James desperately needed his doctors to listen to him in the two months leading up to the murder-suicide, but they repeatedly failed to do so. I think the jury made clear with this verdict that people are sick and tired of point and click medicine."
The case was brought by James' mother, Mary Morrin, for the benefit of his daughters, who were 9 and 15 at the time of their parents' deaths.
In April of 2009, Morrin sought medical attention for a host of depression-related symptoms including anxiety, fear, sadness, persistent insomnia, marital problems, weight loss, and inability to concentrate.
A jury in December found Dr. Koplin and other personnel at Healthwise liable for Mr. Morrin's death. The Christmas and New Year's holidays delayed the jury's decision on damages until this week.
"The jury's verdict is a reflection of the ease with which this tragedy could have been avoided had the doctor correctly evaluated what were obvious symptoms of severe depression," Koskoff said.
"In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, the relationship between untreated mental illness and gun violence has once again sparked considerable debate. Although an assessment of access to firearms is standard practice in the psychiatric community when a patient is at risk for suicide, this case tragically illustrates the inadequacy of that system when patients at risk are not referred for appropriate treatment," said Katie Mesner-Hage, who tried the case along with Koskoff. A 2013 graduate of Yale Law School, Mesner-Hage joined Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder as the first Theodore I. Koskoff Public Interest Fellow.