Psychiatrist Not Liable for Patient’s Car Accident, Pa. Court Rules

June 26, 2007

A psychiatrist cannot be sued for a car crash caused by a patient, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled.

The Superior Court ruling upholds a decision written by a Blair County judge dismissing the lawsuit filed by Matthew Stever of Altoona, who was injured in a head-on crash caused by Crystal Ickes, 27, on Aug. 5, 2004.

Ickes was killed in the accident, so Stever sued her psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Antonowicz of the Altoona Regional Health System. Stever argued that the doctor had a responsibility to preclude Ickes from driving, knowing there was danger in mixing antidepressant drugs and methadone.

In his ruling, Judge Tim Sullivan cited four Superior and state Supreme Court cases in which doctors were deemed not responsible for accidents caused by their patients.

Stever also sued the methadone clinic, Alliance Medical Services Inc., but that suit also was dismissed when a judge said the law must balance the public interest in helping heroin addicts against the consequences of methadone treatment.

Ickes was leaving the clinic after undergoing treatment when she crossed the center line of U.S. Route 22 and smashed into Stever’s vehicle, according to court papers.


Information from: Altoona Mirror,

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