Accused Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes' psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, could soon be subject to more than a dozen lawsuits.
Fenton is facing criticism and possibly as many as 14 negligence lawsuits for allegedly not properly treating Holmes and not alerting authorities to the possible threat that he posed. The University of Colorado is also likely to be named in these lawsuits, reports CNN.
Holmes had been a doctoral student at the university, and Fenton had treated him. But Holmes left the school more than a month before the shootings, and Fenton has said that her contact with him ended. Holmes would later open fire in a movie theater, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.
Given doctor-patient confidentiality, it's not entirely clear what Fenton knew about Holmes or the threat that he presented to the general public. However, it's been alleged that Holmes told the doctor that he fantasized about killing people, and that Fenton was alarmed enough by his statements to contact her colleagues and even campus police, reports CNN. However, many of the victims of the shooting are claiming that Fenton did not do enough.
Doctors walk a fine line between the duty they owe to their patients and the duty they owe to the general public. Typically, when a doctor is aware of a patient's specific plan to commit a criminal act, she can break her duty of confidentiality and report the activities to the police -- which it appears that Fenton did, with campus police.
However, some of the proposed lawsuits seek to assert that Fenton did not take her concerns far enough, such as by warning state police or seeking to have Holmes committed, reports CNN.
Hindsight is 20/20, and it is easy to look back and say that Fenton should have done more. But without knowing exactly what Holmes told Fenton, it's too hard to speculate about whether Fenton was negligent, or even whether her warnings could potentially have stopped the shootings.
- First suit filed against University of Colorado in Aurora shooting (NBC)
- Did U of Colorado Have a Duty to Warn about Holmes? (FindLaw's Injured)
- Can A School Be Sued for a Shooting? (FindLaw's Injured)
- Therapists May Be Required To Report Threats (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)