Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion on David Smits v. Park Nicollet et al., affirming a Court of Appeals decision allowing the wrongful death claim against Park Nicollet to proceed to trial.
The case was brought by Robins Kaplan client, David Smits, a trustee for the Short family, on behalf of Brian and Karen Short, and their three children, after the tragic shootings by Brian Short that ended their lives while Brian was under Park Nicollet’s care. The suit alleges that Park Nicollet didn’t do enough to treat Brian Short’s mental health, despite repeated visits to the clinic.
“From the start of this case, the Family has wanted its day in court to hold Park Nicollet accountable for what they contend was the unreasonable care it provided Brian,” says Robins Kaplan partner and lead trial counsel Patrick Arenz. “This decision ensures that they will receive a trial, so that they can lay out to a jury all the evidence that they believe shows Park Nicollet’s failure to provide reasonable care.”
A Hennepin County judge had previously granted Park Nicollet’s request to dismiss the case without a trial. In 2021, the appellate court ruled that the dismissal was inappropriate because of a question as to whether Park Nicollet should have been able to prevent the murder-suicide and remanded the case for trial.
Today’s opinion affirms the appeals court decision with respect to the wrongful death action on behalf of Brian, “holding that a mental healthcare provider owes a duty of reasonable care to its patient, which is not negated by a lack of total control over the patient.”
“We intend to show at trial that this horrific set of events was entirely preventable had Park Nicollet simply done its job,” says Arenz. “Park Nicollet should have assigned a psychiatrist, not a nurse, to treat Brian’s severe depression; Park Nicollet should have informed Brian and his wife of the FDA’s ‘Black-Box’ warnings about the severe side effects of the powerful drugs that it prescribed him; and Park Nicollet should have closely monitored Brian’s rapidly deteriorating condition while taking those powerful drugs as directed, among other basic steps that Park Nicollet failed to provide to Brian.
This decision is also an important milestone in the Family’s efforts to ensure that this type of tragedy never happens to anyone else,” Arenz continues. “This decision will improve the overall quality of mental health care because those who seek mental health treatment can be assured that their providers have a duty to act reasonably. “