The Georgia Supreme Court recently published an opinion in the case of O’Brien v Bruscato, allowing suit to go forward involving a mentally ill Georgia man that brutally killed mother. Vito Bruscato, the father and guardian of Victor Bruscato brought a medical malpractice suit against Victor’s psychiatrist for discontinuing his medication shortly before the homicide of Victor’s mother. Victor, who had a history of violence, crushed his mother’s head with a battery charger and proceeded to stab her 72 times on August 15, 2002 at the family’s Norcross Home. During his interview with police, Victor Bruscato, told them he knew killing his mother was wrong but that “the devil made him do it.”
The suit alleges Dr. O’Brien’s negligence in discontinuing his son’s medication caused him to become psychotic and kill his mother. The two drugs, Zyprexa and Luvox, are powerful prescription that Bruscato was taken off of several weeks before killing his mother. The court records in the case indicate that Victor Bruscato was assigned to Dr. O’Brien in 2001in a community health center in Gwinnett County. Expert witnesses have testified that anti-psychotic drugs he was prescribed were helping him manage his violent tendencies. In May 2002, O’Brien discontinued the medications because he wanted to make sure that Bruscato wasn’t developing a “dangerous syndrome.” After the discontinuation of the medication, Bruscato claims he began having nightmares and the claimed the devil was ordering him to do bad deeds.
The Supreme Court noted in it’s decision that an expert psychiatrist testified “the chemical changes that resulted from withholding medication caused Bruscato to decompensate and experience the return of the most severe symptoms of his medical disorder, including auditory command hallucinations, agitation, and hostility. The expert concluded that O’Brien’s treatment manifested gross negligence and a disregard of the consequences of leaving a historically violent and potentially psychotic patient unmedicated.”
Previously, a DeKalb County Judge had thrown out the lawsuit on grounds that Georgia’s public policy does not allow Bruscato to profit from his wrongdoings, specifically the killing of this mother. Dr. O’Brien’s lawyers also argued that Bruscato’s family shouldn’t be allowed to shift the blame with a Civil Lawsuit. The State of Court of Appeals subsequently reversed the ruling and the State Supreme Court unanimously agreed.
Jerry Quinn, the attorney for the Bruscato’s commented, “It’s been a long road trying to crawl back in the ballgame, but here we are. I recognize we have challenges at trial, but I look forward to trying it. “I’m happy with the big win, but now we have to try to convince the jury.”
As a Georgia Medical Malpractice attorney, this is a case that I will certainly be curious to see the outcome, as it is no doubt one of the more unusual Medical Malpractice cases that has been seen in recent years.