A man who spent nearly 20 years locked in a state psychiatric ward in Lincoln, Neb., is suing doctors for malpractice, saying he was never mentally ill during his time there.
John Maxwell Montin, 52, filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court, naming 21 former or current Lincoln Regional Center doctors, a program manager and two nurses, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Montin is seeking more than $22 million in damages for incorrectly labeling him mentally ill, unnecessarily holding him and subjecting him to treatments he didn’t need. He’s also seeking $760,000 in lost wages and $10 million in punitive damages.
Montin was released nearly a year ago after a regional center doctor acknowledged Montin had been misdiagnosed from the beginning. Doctors at the center had based his diagnosis of delusional disorder on police reports of a 1993 incident in which he was accused of walking up to rural house, declaring it had belonged to his ancestors and that he was taking it back.
But at his 1993 trial, witnesses refuted much of what Montin was accused of doing.
A Hayes County jury found him not responsible by reason of insanity of two charges: false imprisonment and use of a weapon. He was acquitted of more serious charges of attempted murder and another weapons charge.
He was sent to the Lincoln Regional Center that year. For the next 20 years, regional center doctors and others involved in Montin’s treatment relied on information from initial police reports that said Montin was delusional, rather than court records that showed otherwise.
But last year, a regional center psychiatrist found that it was medicine Montin had taken for his injured back that had led to a medication-induced psychosis. When Montin stopped taking the medication, which was long before he was committed to the regional center, the psychosis was gone. Doctors at the center simply didn’t believe him – for 20 years – when he insisted he was not delusional.
“It was an injustice, and he was right from the beginning,” said Jon Braaten, Montin’s attorney.
Braaten said Montin has returned to Florida, where he has a business cleaning the bottom of boats. The lawsuit says Montin missed the opportunity to marry and have a family, as well as his mother’s funeral, because of the Lincoln Regional Center’s malpractice.
Leah Bucco-White, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services that runs the center, declined to comment to the newspaper Friday.
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