Court of Appeals grants rehearing of Stuart Irby wrongful death - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Court of Appeals grants rehearing of Stuart Irby wrongful death lawsuit

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has granted a rehearing for a wrongful-death lawsuit against the psychiatrist who treated Stuart Irby before he committed suicide - Source: WLBT Archives The Mississippi Court of Appeals has granted a rehearing for a wrongful-death lawsuit against the psychiatrist who treated Stuart Irby before he committed suicide - Source: WLBT Archives
A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed by Karen Collins, formerly Karen Irby, on behalf of her son Graham Read Irby - Source: MDOC A wrongful-death lawsuit was filed by Karen Collins, formerly Karen Irby, on behalf of her son Graham Read Irby - Source: MDOC
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has granted a rehearing for a wrongful-death lawsuit against the psychiatrist who treated Stuart Irby before he committed suicide.

A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Karen Collins, formerly Karen Irby, on behalf of her son Graham Read Irby, alleged the psychiatrist’s intentional and negligent acts created an irresistible impulse in Irby to commit suicide.

The circuit court originally dismissed the action, finding that the claims of intentional acts were barred by the one-year statute of limitations. On appeal, Collins originally argued that despite allegations of intentional acts, the complaint was based in negligence, for which a two-year statute of limitations applied.

Five days prior to this Court’s original decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court decided Pioneer Community Hospital of Newton v. Roberts, 214 So. 3d 259 (Miss. 2017), in which it held that the minor’s saving statute, Mississippi Code Annotated section 15-1-59 (Rev. 2012), applies to wrongful-death actions where a qualified person is available to file suit during the limitations period, but does not do so.

Collins argues that under Pioneer, the minor’s savings statute applied and prevented the dismissal of the complaint, as Graham is a minor, and no qualified person brought suit during the limitations period.

Prior to his death, Stuart Irby sought psychiatric treatment from Dr. Sudhakar Madakasira, a physician specializing in psychiatry. Dr. Madakasira treated Irby for various conditions, including bipolar disorder, anger management, and alcohol abuse.

On February 11, 2009, Irby and Collins were involved in a car accident. Irby suffered a severe, traumatic frontal-lobe brain injury. He continued to see Dr. Madakasira for the brain injury.

Due to that injury, Irby was deemed incapable of conducting his own business affairs and coconservators were appointed by the Hinds County Chancery Court. The conservators petitioned the chancery court, on Irby's behalf, for a divorce from Collins.

The petition was granted. 

In support of the divorce complaint, the conservators attached an affidavit executed by Dr. Madakasira on October 28, 2011, while Irby was under his care. The affidavit stated that Irby had told Dr. Madakasira that he was unsure if he wanted a divorce from Collins. However, Dr. Madakasira swore in his affidavit that due to the brain injury, Irby was not capable of making a decision in his or Graham’s best interest regarding the divorce.

Dr. Madakasira said that a divorce was in Irby’s best interest and that it would be detrimental to Irby’s health to remain married to Collins. 

Although Irby testified he did not want a divorce, the divorce was granted.

On January 17, 2012, Irby told Collins over the phone that he was forced into the divorce and had no reason to live. Irby committed suicide at his home later that day. 

On March 17, 2014, Collins filed a medical-malpractice action based on wrongful death against Dr. Madakasira and his employer, Psycamore alleging that the doctor and the healthcare provider negligently caused Irby's death by suicide.  

After the case was transferred to Rankin County Circuit Court, Colins was granted leave to file and amended complaint that alleged negligence and added a claim for "intentional acts". The amended portion of the complaint alleged that “[a]s a direct and proximate result of the intentional acts of Dr. Madakasira in assisting the conservators in the prosecution of the divorce action and the granting of a divorce by the Chancery Court[,] Stuart M. Irby developed an irresistible impulse to commit suicide[.]”

Dr. Madakasira moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that the one-year statute of limitations for intentional torts barred the action and that any negligence claims were barred for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. After a hearing, the circuit court granted the motion to dismiss. Collins’s motion for reconsideration was denied. On appeal, Collins argued that the two-year statute of limitations for professional negligence applies and that the case should be reversed and remanded for discovery and further proceedings.

On rehearing, Collins further argues that the statute of limitations was negated by the minor’s savings clause.

The court found that while within the two-year statute of limitations for negligence, a negligence cause of action cannot be sustained for a claim for wrongful death by suicide.

Collins asserts on rehearing that she did not argue tolling before the trial court or in her initial brief on appeal because, at that time, Curry was still in effect, and qualified persons existed who could have brought suit during the statute of limitations.

Collins is not qualified to recover under the wrongful-death statute, since she and Irby were divorced at the time of his death.

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