$800,000 Settlement Approved in Mont. Psychologist Malpractice Case

A district judge has approved an $800,000 settlement in a malpractice and fraud lawsuit filed by a Billings, Mont., woman against her deceased daughter’s psychologist.

Judge Susan Watters said the settlement amount was reasonable considering the damages that Betty Bowman suffered from her family’s association with Constance Reynolds, a therapist whose license was revoked in 2004.

Bowman’s daughter, Dana Mobley, was a client of Reynolds when the two became lovers, the lawsuit said. Mobley died of asphyxiation in February 2004 while heavily medicated at a time Reynolds was monitoring the medications that had been prescribed to Mobley by her treating psychiatrist. Mobley and Reynolds were living together.

In the lawsuit, Bowman claimed the psychologist was negligent and committed malpractice, fraud and identity theft when she began a sexual relationship with Mobley while treating Mobley as a client.

Reynolds, who now lives in Florida, could not be reached for comment. She did not attend the hearing.

Bowman testified that she deeded a house to Reynolds so Reynolds and her daughter would have a safe home to share. Reynolds then took out a mortgage on the house, Bowman said, and never paid her the full price of the house.

Bowman said she loaned Reynolds $10,000 on one occasion and was not repaid, and Reynolds used her credit cards without her permission or knowledge. One credit card debt grew to $13,000, Bowman said.

Chicago Insurance Co., which provided Reynolds with malpractice insurance, has filed a federal lawsuit against both Reynolds and Bowman, arguing that Reynolds’ policy does not cover the fraud and identity theft claims made by Bowman against Reynolds. The company said the policy does not include coverage for any damage caused by Reynolds’ alleged failure to monitor Mobley’s medications because she was not licensed to prescribe or monitor medication. Bowman’s attorney, Brad Arndorfer, said a judge is expected to rule on the issue early next year.

Two other Billings residents have filed malpractice lawsuits against Reynolds, including one by another female patient who said she was in a relationship with Mobley when Mobley and Reynolds began dating. Both lawsuits have been settled.

Before the lawsuits were filed, a state administrative law judge found that Reynolds had an inappropriate relationship with Mobley and recommended the psychologist lose her state license. The Montana Board of Psychology unanimously followed the recommendation in June 2004.

In a report last year, Missoula psychologist Janet Allison described Reynolds’ actions as “a tragic example” of the harm an unethical psychologist can cause.

“In my three decades of work in the field, I have never seen a more egregious case of professional violations of ethics or of damage inflicted on clients by a psychologist,” Allison wrote.