Provider Liability

Binkley v. Allina Health Sys., 877 N.W.2d 547 (Minn. 2016)

In a case involving a minor with history of suicidal behavior, hospital’s affirmative defense of statutory immunity applied to the decision to deny admission to an inpatient mental health unit, but not to decisions regarding what care to provide the patient after leaving the hospital. 

Background: Binkley sued Allina Health System (“Allina”) for negligence in failing to properly examine, evaluate, and provide services to her son, Lloyd, who committed suicide after being denied admission into an inpatient mental health unit. In 2009, Lloyd began to experience suicidal thoughts and ideation, which resulted in his participation in the “United Partial Program” (“partial program”), an outpatient mental health treatment program. About nine months after completing the program, Lloyd again experienced suicidal ideation and self-harm behavior. He told his mother that he wanted to go to United in order to get help and stop his pattern of self-harm. Binkley and Lloyd went to the United Health emergency room and repeatedly requested that Lloyd, who consented, be admitted to United's inpatient mental health unit. Lloyd was examined by United staff, but was informed that he would not be admitted to the inpatient unit and, further, he was not “a good candidate” for the outpatient program because of a previous failure to follow through with that program. Lloyd returned home with his mother and committed suicide less than 24 hours later. Respondents asserted an affirmative defense of statutory immunity and, in the alternative, claimed that Binkley's expert affidavit failed to satisfy the statutory requirements under Minnesota law. The district court denied the motion for summary judgment.

Holding: On appeal, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that Respondents' good-faith decision to deny Lloyd admission to the inpatient mental health unit was entitled to immunity. However, the court also held that decisions regarding what care to provide to Lloyd after he left the hospital were not entitled to immunity.

Notable Points:

The immunity provision of the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act (“CTA”) applies to both voluntary and involuntary commitments: The CTA creates a state policy in favor of voluntary treatment. The voluntary treatment section of the CTA, which applied to Lloyd's circumstances, prohibits the arbitrary denial of admission and requires that treatment facilities use “clinical admission criteria consistent with the current applicable inpatient admission standards established by the American Psychiatric Association or the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry” when “making decisions regarding admissions.”

Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 2