High Court reverses Wyo. State Hospital wrongful death case

CHEYENNE — The adoptive brother of a Wyoming State Hospital patient was ruled to have grounds to pursue a lawsuit against the hospital in a wrongful death case, according to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court issued its opinion Wednesday in the case of Robert Craft and Sabrina Craft v. State of Wyoming, Wyoming Department of Health, Wyoming State Hospital and more.

The case centered around the death of Robert Anderson, who died in 2015 at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston, according to court documents. Anderson went to the hospital after he pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness to criminal charges and was at the hospital for eight months before his death.

While he was at the hospital, Anderson was being treated for a “serious medical conditions” and was prescribed different types of medications, according to court documents. During his treatment, he complained to doctors about pain in his right arm and body.

When he died, a toxicology report showed he had anti-depressants in his body higher than therapeutic doses. The case the Crafts filed alleges his death was due to the medication he was given at the hospital, according to court documents.

Laramie County District Court, with Judge Peter Froelicher presiding, ruled that Robert Craft didn’t have standing to be the wrongful death representative. The district court also ruled that Dr. Sarah Rogers and the hospital were immune.

The high court ultimately found that Craft did have standing to be the wrongful death representative for Anderson, and Rogers wasn’t immune, since she was working within the scope of her employment and subject to liability, since it could survive a motion of dismissal.

Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lawsuit back to the district court.

For its opinion, the high court examined if Craft, as Anderson’s adoptive half-brother, qualifies as a wrongful death beneficiary, and if Rogers and the hospital are immune from the lawsuit under the Wyoming Government Claims Act.

Anderson was adopted by his biological grandmother, which made Craft his brother through that adoption. The Supreme Court held state law says a new family is made throughout adoption. This makes Craft legally Anderson’s brother, and state law says siblings can be considered beneficiaries.

Since the hospital is public, it doesn’t have sovereign immunity if Rogers was acting within capacity of her duties in the hospital, which the Supreme Court said she was.


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