In the first of what may be many more to come, the widow of a man killed in the Aurora, Colorado theatre shootings has filed suit against the University of Colorado Denver, James Holmes’ psychiatrist, and five other defendants.
It has been alleged that one month before the horrific incident, Holmes told the director of Student Mental Health Services on campus that he “fantasized about killing a lot of people.” When asked by campus police if they should apprehend Holmes and place him on a psychiatric hold, the psychiatrist rejected the idea.
The lawsuit claims that the shooting would not have occurred had the doctor ordered the psychiatric hold. She is being sued for failing to act rather than for taking an action that results in harm.
Whether the hold would have made a difference is anyone’s guess. Why is this lawsuit sure to fail? A psychiatric hold is an emergency measure, and keeping someone under restraint longer than 72 hours requires a medical evaluation and the approval of a judge. Holmes’ comment was made just over a month before the deadly rampage, and there is no guarantee that a judge would have ordered him to remain locked up beyond the 72-hour period.
One problem I have seen in these high profile cases is young lawyers (and sometimes old lawyers) trying to make a name for themselves bringing lawsuits without giving real thought to the true merits of the case.