This opinion will be unpublished and
Stewart Lindberg, as Trustee, Appellant, vs. Health Partners, Inc., et al., Respondents.
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of:
Filed July 29, 1997
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Hennepin County District Court
File No. P19460242
Gregory R. Solum, 5275 Edina Industrial Boulevard, Suite 105, Edina, MN 55439 (for appellant Richard Vickers)
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Coleen Brady, Assistant County Attorney, A-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent petitioner)
Considered and decided by Parker, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Harten, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Richard Vickers appeals from his indeterminate commitment as mentally ill and dangerous. Vickers argues (1) the trial court determination that he presents a clear danger to the safety of others was erroneous and not supported by the record, and (2) indeterminate commitment as mentally ill and dangerous is not the least restrictive alternative. Because the record provides clear and convincing evidence to support the trial court determination that Vickers was a clear danger to others and indeterminate commitment as mentally ill and dangerous was the least restrictive alternative, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal, the findings of the trial court will not be disturbed unless clearly erroneous, giving due regard to the trial court's opportunity to judge the credibility of the witnesses. In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995) (citing Minn. R. Civ. Pro. 52.01). Issues of law will be reviewed under a de novo standard. See id.
A mentally ill and dangerous person is defined as one
(a) who is mentally ill, and (b) who as a result of that mental illness presents a clear danger to the safety of others as demonstrated by the facts that (i) the person has engaged in an overt act causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm to another and (ii) there is a substantial likelihood that the person will engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on another.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (1996).
After initial and reviews hearing, the trial court indeterminately committed Vickers as mentally ill and dangerous. See Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subds. 1-3 (1996) (procedures for indeterminate commitment). For purposes of this appeal, Vickers does not dispute his diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder or his need for treatment. Instead, he challenges the determination that he poses a clear danger to the safety of others.
Vickers first argues that the overt acts cited by the trial court do not meet the statutory standard because they were the result of relatively unique situations involving misdiagnoses and/or ineffective medication. He explains they occurred within the context of a violent community, were for purposes of gaining attention from his peers, and were connected to his alcohol and marijuana use.
The statute requires that the person "has engaged in an overt act causing or attempting to cause serious physical harm to another." Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17(b)(i); see In re Dirks, 530 N.W.2d 207, 210 (Minn. App. 1995) (overt act requirement met where person had physically assaulted and threatened girlfriends, family members, and law enforcement officials, as well as discharging firearms). The person's intent or capacity to form intent, as well as the outcome of the action, is irrelevant to a determination of whether the overt act requirement was met. In re Jasmer, 447 N.W.2d 192, 195 (Minn. 1989).
The trial court made findings as to the numerous assaults Vickers committed, and the experts at the initial hearing agreed these constituted overt acts that caused or attempted to cause serious physical harm to another. Vickers's explanations for his assaultive behavior do not change the fact that he engaged in the overt acts and instead show he needed commitment. See Dirks, 530 N.W.2d at 210 (rejecting argument that overt act requirement not met because assaultive behavior occurred while drinking and before receiving medication when appellant was experiencing symptoms of mental illness).
Vickers next challenges the trial court determination after his review hearing that he continued to pose a likelihood of harm. To show a clear danger to others, there must also be a finding of a substantial likelihood that the person will engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on another. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (b) (ii), "Dangerousness may be demonstrated by past conduct together with a determination the person is likely to engage in future violent conduct." In re Lufsky, 388 N.W.2d 763, 766 (Minn. App. 1986).
Vickers cites his own testimony showing his understanding that he must continue his sobriety, treatment, and medication compliance. He refers to the expert who agreed that "as he sits here today" Vickers was not an imminent danger, and if he stayed on his medication, did not exhibit symptoms, and did not use drugs, he would not be a clear danger to others.
The trial court found that while Vickers presented himself well and his mental illness may now be in remission, his relative stability has been in existence for only a few weeks. The court cited Vickers's consistent history of stopping medication when not under judicial jurisdiction, abusing drugs and alcohol, which lowered his ability to control his behavior; engaging in impulsive assaults and dangerous behavior; and failing to seek treatment when he was decompensated. Until his condition recently stabilized, he had continued to threaten staff and peers at the hospital by using assaultive behavior to attain what he felt he needed. The treatment team and the court's examiner recommended his continued commitment as mentally ill and dangerous so he can gain insight into his condition and learn to prevent a relapse of his illness. They viewed him as substantially likely to engage in acts capable of inflicting serious physical harm on others.
The trial court's consideration of the relevant facts and expert opinions supports its determination that Vickers is substantially likely to cause harm in the future and be a clear danger to others. See In re Malm, 375 N.W.2d 888, 891 (Minn. App. 1985) (likelihood of future harm shown even though patient's symptoms were in remission while hospitalized and abstaining from alcohol, where past behavior showed patient would stop medication and resume drinking when free to do so).
The next issue is whether the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court's indeterminate commitment of Vickers to the Minnesota Security Hospital. Vickers does not dispute his placement at the security hospital, but argues the least restrictive alternative would be determinate commitment as mentally ill to the security hospital. See In re Schauer, 450 N.W.2d 194, 198 (Minn. App. 1990) (indeterminate commitment as mentally ill and dangerous must be least restrictive alternative).
The trial court found Vickers was in need of indeterminate commitment to the security hospital. It cited the treatment team's recommendation that Vickers needs continued hospitalization at the security hospital because the hospital can restrict his access to alcohol and street drugs and the staff is specially trained to manage mentally ill, violent patients. When previously released from a hospital, Vickers consistently abandoned treatment, abused chemicals, and became violent and assaultive. Nonetheless, the court indicated it hoped Vickers could be moved to a less restrictive unit at the hospital in the near future and ultimately be returned to the community once he had demonstrated his ability to cope with his mental illness and abstain from the use of alcohol and street drugs.
Vickers cites the remission of his symptoms, his increased insight, the expert's testimony as to his lack of danger, and the fact that he successfully completed a mentally ill commitment previously. He contends that determinate commitment as mentally ill to the security hospital would meet his treatment needs without the stigma of an indeterminate commitment as mentally ill and dangerous.
As discussed above, Vickers's symptoms had been in remission for only a few weeks at the time of the review hearing, and the treatment team believed he still posed a clear danger to others. The trial court determination was based on clear and convincing evidence from which it could conclude indeterminate commitment to the security hospital was the least restrictive alternative.