On May 3, 2023, a mass shooting occurred at a Northside Hospital facility in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia. It’s been all over the news and social media, so you have almost certainly heard about the tragic event. For us, the tragedy hit figuratively and literally close to home because it occurred within a few hundred feet of our office in Midtown. The event has raised a lot of questions. If you’re in the legal and medical communities, you might be wondering about what the Midtown Atlanta shooting highlights about liability.

According to initial reports, 24-year-old Deion Patterson, a military vet, allegedly walked into a waiting room of Northside Medical Midtown just after noon. Mr. Patterson then allegedly opened fire, killing a CDC employee and critically injuring four others. Mr. Patterson is now facing one count of murder and four counts of aggravated assault.

According to later reports, Mr. Patterson was at the outpatient facility for an appointment, accompanied by his mother, Minyone Patterson. Mr. Patterson allegedly became enraged, pulled out a handgun, and started shooting. After he fled, Mrs. Patterson assisted investigators in the search for her son.

According to the most recent coverage, Ms. Patterson believes her son had a “mental break.” And she blames the Veterans Administration. According to reports, Mrs. Patterson said: “The damn VA gave him some messed up medication.” She reportedly also explained that the victims’ families are now hurting “because they wouldn’t give my son his damn Ativan. Those families lost their loved ones because he had a mental break because they wouldn’t listen to me.

Are VA medical providers liable in the Midtown Atlanta shooting?

If the facts bear out her accusations, could the VA or its providers be guilty of medical malpractice in this Midtown Atlanta shooting? Could they be held legally responsible for Mr. Patterson’s “mental break” and his actions?

Healthcare providers generally owe a duty of care to their patients. That duty requires providers to prescribe and monitor medications properly. If a provider fails to meet those requirements—fails to prescribe the right medication or the correct dosage or fails to monitor the patient’s response to prescribed medications—the provider may be liable for the harm the medication causes.

With patients with a history of psychosis, the stakes are even higher. Because the patient may cause harm to others if not on a proper regimen of indicated medication, a provider managing the patient may be liable for harm the patient inflicts upon others.

Thus, when prescribing medications to a patient with a history of psychosis, a medical provider must properly monitor the patient’s response to the medication. With judgment and skill, the provider must regularly assess the patient’s mental health, adjusting medications and dosing as necessary and closely watching for side effects, especially those with a tendency towards destructive behavior.

If a patient has a psychotic break and harms others because a provider fails to manage the patient’s medications properly, the provider may be liable for the patient’s actions. The law may extend or even shift responsibility to the provider because the provider had a duty to ensure proper management of the patient’s medications. The provider had a duty to use medical training, judgment, and skill to mitigate the risk of a psychotic break in the first place.

The Bell Law Firm represents clients who have suffered death or catastrophic injury in medical malpractice and other personal injury cases. To request a free consultation, visit our Contact Us page.