Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in case of Charles Werner, an incompetent by his parent and natural guardian Odette Werner, and Odette Werner in her own right v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, No. 84-8830.
Gregory G. Stagliano, with him, Barbara W. Thompson, Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach & Monte, for appellant.
Celeste Yvonne Lamb, Deputy Attorney General, with her, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judge Colins dissents.
[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 135]
Charles Werner and his mother, Odette Werner, plaintiffs below, appeal a Delaware County Common Pleas Court order denying their motion for a new trial following a jury verdict in favor of the Commonwealth's Department of Public Welfare (DPW). We affirm.
Charles Werner, a psychiatric patient at Haverford State Hospital, committed self-mutilation by removing his eye with a blunt stick several hours after he was released
[ 109 Pa. Commw. Page 136]
from prescribed leather restraints. The Werners' complaint alleged essentially that the DPW-administered hospital was negligent in treating and supervising Charles. The trial judge instructed the jury that, with respect to the decision to release the restraints, the hospital may be liable only if it is found grossly negligent. As to other allegations of inadequate treatment, the trial judge instructed the jury to apply a simple negligence standard. The trial judge made evidentiary rulings which are also at issue here.
We will first address the Werners' contention that the trial judge erred in instructing the jury to apply a gross negligence standard.*fn1
The court applied a gross negligence standard pursuant to Section 114 of the Mental Health Procedures Act*fn2 (MHPA), which states:
Immunity from civil and criminal ...