Settlement Reached After Deadlocked Jury in Patient Suicide

Anthony Imparato Sr. arrived at the University of Chicago’s emergency room on March 27, 2005.  It was the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death. He complained of insomnia for five days, depression and financial ruin because of his gambling debt.

Mr. Imparato was 51 and a Chicago firefighter. He was seen in the emergency department by the defendant physician, Dr. Becker, and a psychiatry resident, Dr. Dakwar. Another emergency medicine resident, Derek Timmermann, also saw Mr. Imparato.

The attending psychiatrist, Dr. Phan, consulted with Dr. Dakwar over the telephone. The doctors quoted Mr. Imparato as stating that death had crossed his mind, that he had hit rock bottom and that he had thoughts of suicide. However, the chart showed many times that Mr. Imparato denied suicidal ideations, an intent or plan.

The defendant doctors testified that they offered admission into the psychiatric ward multiple times, but Mr. Imparato declined. 

The defendants then discharged Mr. Imparato with a prescription of Trazodone, an antidepressant which is also used to address sleep problems.

He signed his discharge instructions, which included a psychiatry intake, phone number, instructions for him to return if he had thoughts of suicide and instructions to see his primary care physician for a psych referral.

On March 28, 2005, 17 hours after the discharge, he jumped from the 7th floor of a parking garage in Hammond, Ind., and died.  Mr. Imparato was survived by a son, Anthony Jr., who was 16 years old at the time.

The family brought this lawsuit contending that Mr. Imparato was at a moderate to high risk of suicide and should have been hospitalized involuntarily. The family also claimed that the discharge instructions were insufficient. 

The defendants argued that the doctors did everything required by the standard of care to assess the patient’s suicide risk. They also said he did not meet the criteria for involuntary admission, and the doctors were required to discharge him due to his multiple reassurances that he was not suicidal, including his refusal of offers to be admitted into the psychiatric ward.

The defendants also maintained that the deceased was more than 50 percent responsible for his own death because he ignored discharge instructions to return if he had thoughts of suicide, he chose not to call the psychiatry intake phone number and he intentionally took his own life.

After 2 days of deliberation, the jury was deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of plaintiff. Although the case was declared a mistrial, the parties entered into a settlement for $500,000, and the case was dismissed.

The attorneys for the family of Anthony Imparato Sr. were Thomas H. Murphy and Benjamin B. Kelly.

Before trial, the demand to settle the case was $1,800,000. There was no offer to settle before trial.

Estate of Anthony Imparato, Sr. v. University of Chicago Medical Center, et al., No. 07 L 66014 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, wrongful death matters and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Wheaton, Arlington Heights, Skokie, Palos Heights, Chicago Heights, Elmhurst, Vernon Hills, Flossmoor, Tinley Park, Chicago (Jefferson Park, Sauganash) and Inverness, Ill.

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