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Lawyers Weekly USA – Psychiatric hospital pays more than $20 million for patient who murdered family

By September 26, 2009 No Comments

Lawyer’s Weekly USA
Natalie White

Just six hours after being released from an Arizona mental health facility, Rodney Aviles brutally murdered his mother and 7-year-old niece. The incident was the basis for the family’s $28 million verdict against Maricopa County and Aviles’ psychiatrist.

The county, which used to operate the facility, was held liable for $21 million, or 75 percent of the damages. The remaining 25 percent was divided up among the psychiatrist (18 percent), Aviles (5 percent), his mother (1 percent) and his sister (1 percent).

These people needed help and the county didn’t help them, said Jeffrey Miller, one of the family’s attorneys. From the social worker to the psychiatrist there were so many places where they dropped the ball.

Defending medical malpractice cases is always difficult, said Deputy County Attorney Richard Stewart.

You already have a bad outcome or you wouldn’t be there in the first place, he said. But I was very surprised. I personally felt that the evidence went fairly well for us. The amount is much higher than a typical wrongful death verdict and I didn’t feel that the circumstances were aggravated.