The Mississippi Court of Appeals says the son of a man who committed suicide can proceed with filing a lawsuit against a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist’s employer. The court ruled 5-4 that Graham Irby can sue Dr. Sudhakar Madakasira and Psycamore LLC over claims that Madakasira’s intentional acts while his father was receiving treatment for a brain injury created an “irresistible impulse” toward suicide in his father, who ultimately ended this life in January 2012.
Graham Irby, by and through his mother, Karen Collins, filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that prior to his suicide, his father, Stuart Irby, sought psychiatric treatment from Madakasira and the doctor treated him for various conditions, including bipolar disorder, anger management, and alcohol abuse. On February 11, 2009, Irby and his wife, Karen Irby (now Karen Collins), were involved in a car accident whereby Irby suffered a severe, traumatic frontal-lobe brain injury. He continued to see Dr. Madakasira for the injury.
Court documents state further that due to that trauma, Irby was deemed incapable to proceed with conducting his own business affairs, “and co-conservators were appointed by the Hinds County Chancery Court, First Judicial District. The conservators petitioned the chancery court for authority to file a divorce complaint on Irby’s behalf against 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 opined that a divorce was in Irby’s best interest and that it would be detrimental to Irby’s health to remain married to Collins. Dr. Madakasira testified consistently at the divorce hearing. 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, Graham, by way of this mother, filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court, First Judicial District alleging that Dr. Madakasira negligently caused Irby’s death by suicide. Then, in an amended complaint, Collins and her son claimed 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.”
The court had previously rejected Graham’s wrongful death complaint, stating he had waited too long to pursue litigation, and therefore, could not proceed. However, the court’s original ruling came only five days after the state Supreme Court ruled that time limits on some wrongful death lawsuits do not apply until a child turns 21. Therefore, the court was forced to reverse its decision.