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EVANUIK v. UNIVERSITY PITTSBURGH ET AL. (04/22/75)

decided: April 22, 1975.

EVANUIK, APPELLANT,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH ET AL.



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1971, No. 1293, in case of Kate Evanuik, Administratrix of the Estate of Darlene Dobrushin, Deceased v. University of Pittsburgh, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and Karen Fishell, additional defendant.

COUNSEL

Daniel M. Berger, with him Berger & Kapetan, for appellant.

John R. McGinley, Jr., with him Frank R. Fleming, III, Irvin Bails, and Grogan, Graffam & McGinley, for appellees.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Price, J.

Author: Price

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 289]

This appeal follows a jury verdict which held Karen Fishell, the additional defendant below, liable to the plaintiff in negligence. The jury exculpated appellee, University of Pittsburgh, Western Psychiatric Institute

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 290]

    and Clinic (WPIC) of liability, finding either that WPIC was not negligent or that WPIC's negligence was not the proximate cause of the death of Darlene Dobrushin, the decedent. Post-trial motions were filed and denied by the lower court en banc.

On this appeal, appellant-administratrix of decedent's estate, Kate Evanuik, alleges two errors which she believes warrant the granting of a new trial: (1) that prejudicial error resulted when the lower court refused to permit the cross-examination of appellee's executive director concerning literature in the fields of psychiatric nursing and hospital practice, and (2) that the lower court erred in admitting into evidence Karen Fishell's guilty plea to the general charge of murder. We find these contentions to be without merit and will affirm the order of the court below.

The facts which gave rise to the instant wrongful death and survival actions were established at trial. Karen Fishell, the additional defendant below, while a patient at WPIC, walked out of the institution without being seen and went to her apartment to retrieve a gun purchased before her commitment. She then proceeded to the apartment of a former boyfriend. Upon finding him there with Darlene Dobrushin, Karen drew the revolver and shot and killed Miss Dobrushin. The administratrix of Miss Dobrushin's estate instituted this action against WPIC, which in turn joined Karen Fishell as additional defendant.

At trial, appellant contended that WPIC, through its agents and employees, had knowledge of Miss Fishell's suicidal and homicidal tendencies, and was negligent in failing to restrain her. In an effort to prove the alleged negligence of WPIC, appellant called the executive director, Harry Dorsey, as on cross-examination, and elicited information concerning WPIC's procedures and controls for confining its in-patients. Appellant's counsel asked

[ 234 Pa. Super. Page 291]

    the director whether WPIC received certain publications*fn1 and relied on them to keep abreast of changes in hospital care. Mr. Dorsey indicated that several of the publications were received at the hospital and that upon occasion an article contained therein was relied upon in determining the management of WPIC. However, when presented with specific articles, Mr. Dorsey testified that he had not read the articles and was not familiar with their contents. Furthermore, Mr. Dorsey did not ...


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