A Waterbury Superior Court jury has issued an $8 million verdict against a former doctor who was accused of failing to diagnose the mental illness of a Vernon man who ultimately killed himself and his wife.
The jury returned the medical malpractice verdict Monday against former Tolland doctor Carl Koplin, after having found him liable for the death of James Morrin, 45.
Police say James Morrin killed his wife, Alice Morrin, 43, and himself in their home on June 29, 2009. Koplin was James Morrin’s doctor. James Morrin’s family sued Koplin and his medical practice, and Healthwise Medical Group, saying Koplin failed to diagnose Morrin’s mental health problems and refer him to a psychiatrist.
“This case underscores that primary care providers, who are in a unique position to recognize early signs of mental health problems in their patients, need to be part of any discussion about effective intervention and treatment,” said Joshua Koskoff, of Bridgeport-based Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, who represented the Morrin family. “James [Morrin] desperately needed his doctors to listen to him in the two months leading up to the murder-suicide, but they repeatedly failed to do so. I think the jury made clear with this verdict that people are sick and tired of point-and-click medicine.”
The case was brought by James’ mother, Mary Morrin, for the benefit of his daughters, who were 9 and 15 at the time of their parents’ deaths.
In April 2009, James Morrin sought medical attention for a host of depression-related symptoms including anxiety, fear, sadness, persistent insomnia, marital problems, weight loss, and inability to concentrate.
A jury in December found Koplin and other personnel at Healthwise liable. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays delayed the jury’s decision on damages until this week. “The jury’s verdict is a reflection of the ease with which this tragedy could have been avoided had the doctor correctly evaluated what were obvious symptoms of severe depression,” Koskoff said.
Katie Mesner-Hage, a 2013 graduate of Yale Law School, tried the case along with Koskoff.
“In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, the relationship between untreated mental illness and gun violence has once again sparked considerable debate,” Mesner-Hage said. “Although an assessment of access to firearms is standard practice in the psychiatric community when a patient is at risk for suicide, this case tragically illustrates the inadequacy of that system when patients at risk are not referred for appropriate treatment.”
Koplin’s lawyer says the judge in the case improperly allowed testimony harmful to the defense. Koplin himself is currently serving an unrelated, four-year federal prison sentence for receipt of child pornography.