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Walden Behavioral Care v. K.I. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-055-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11704   WALDEN BEHAVIORAL CARE  vs.  K.I.       Middlesex.     December 2, 2014. – April 9, 2015.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.     Mental Health.  Practice, Civil, Commitment of mentally ill person, Waiver.  Psychotherapist.  Witness, Psychiatric examination, Privilege.  Evidence, Privileged communication.  Privileged Communication.  Waiver.       Petition for civil commitment filed in the Waltham Division of the District Court Department on August 13, 2012.   The case was heard by Gregory C. Flynn, J.   The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.     Stan Goldman for the respondent. Diane M. Geraghty Hall for the petitioner. Jennifer Honig, Phillip Kassel, Robert Fleischner, & Stan Eichner, for Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee & others, amici curiae, submitted a brief.     DUFFLY, J.  Walden Behavioral Care, a facility for the treatment of mentally ill patients, brought a petition in the District Court pursuant to G. L. c. 123, §§ 7, 8, seeking to commit K.I. involuntarily and retain him in its facility.  K.I. filed a motion in limine to exclude from the commitment hearing testimony concerning statements he had made to his treating psychiatrist at Walden Behavioral Care.  K.I. claimed that his statements were protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege as defined in G. L. c. 233, § 20B, and that the psychiatrist was precluded from testifying to those statements or to his opinion of K.I.’s mental or emotional condition based on those statements. A District Court judge denied K.I.’s motion, concluding that the psychotherapist-patient privilege was overcome by an exception to the privilege set forth in G. L. c. 233, § 20B (a).   At the commitment hearing, the psychiatrist was permitted to testify to statements made to him by K.I., and to his opinion that K.I. was suicidal.  Based on this testimony, K.I. was committed to Walden Behavioral Care for six months.  K.I. appealed the commitment order to the Appellate Division of the District Court; in a divided opinion, the court affirmed the commitment.  K.I. appealed, and we transferred the case from the Appeals Court on our own motion. We conclude that the exception to the psychotherapist-patient privilege established in G. L. c. 233, § 20B (a), applies in the circumstances presented.  Notwithstanding the absence of a knowing and intelligent waiver of the privilege, there was no error in permitting the psychiatrist to testify at […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - April 9, 2015 at 9:21 pm

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