Weathers v. Pilkinton

754 S.W.2d 75 (1988)

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Weathers v. Pilkinton

Tennessee Court of Appeals
754 S.W.2d 75 (1988)

  • Written by Nicole Gray , JD

Facts

In 1984, Dr. Pilkinton (defendant), a general physician at a regional hospital, treated Michael Weathers twice after Weathers attempted suicide by overdose, once in September and again on November 10. Weathers had been hospitalized for mental illness for two months in 1983 and for two weeks in 1984, each time after asking his wife to kill him. Weathers had attempted suicide by overdose a month before being treated by Dr. Pilkinton the first time, but he survived without requiring hospitalization. When Dr. Pilkinton discharged Weathers in November, he recommended that Weathers seek outpatient mental-health treatment at a local clinic. Weathers did not seek the treatment; instead, he returned to work, seeming to be in a reasonably good mood. However, on November 28, Weathers shot and killed himself. Weathers’s wife, Ellen (plaintiff), sued Dr. Pilkinton for wrongful death and outrageous conduct in Tennessee state court. A trial judge directed a verdict for Dr. Pilkinton after hearing from two expert witnesses regarding Dr. Pilkinton’s negligent failure to order a psychiatric evaluation and have him involuntarily committed based on the three recent suicide attempts. The judge found that although Dr. Pilkinton may have been negligent in his care of Weathers, Weathers’s act of suicide was an independent intervening cause of Weathers’s death. Mrs. Weathers appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cantrell, J.)

Dissent (Tatum, J.)

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