Mulhern v. Catholic Health InitiativesAnnotate this Case
Elizabeth Von Linden took her life three weeks after she was discharged as an inpatient from defendant Mercy Hospital's psychiatric ward and six days after her outpatient office visit with Mercy's psychiatrist. Von Linden's husband brought a wrongful death action against Mercy, alleging negligent care. Mercy raised defenses, including Von Linden's comparative negligence. The jury found both Mercy and Von Linden negligent and allocated ninety percent of the total fault to Von Linden and ten percent to Mercy, resulting in a defense verdict. At issue on appeal was whether the state's comparative fault act, Iowa Code chapter 668, permits a jury to compare the fault of a noncustodial suicide victim with the negligence of the mental health professionals treating her. The Supreme Court held that Von Linden owed a duty of self-care as an outpatient, and the district court committed no reversible error in allowing the jury to compare her fault. The Court therefore affirmed the judgment for Mercy.