A couple who sued the University of Iowa for allegedly failing to properly supervise their mentally ill daughter before she threw herself from a campus parking deck has been awarded $2.5 million.
William and Kathleen Haptonstall filed the lawsuit against the University of Iowa and the state in October 2016, accusing UI Hospitals and Clinics of negligence in the death of their 40-year-old daughter Kathleen.
According to The Gazette, Ms. Haptonstall had been admitted to the University of Iowa (UI) residential eating disorder program in August 2016 with a medical history that included depression, delusional disorder, failure to thrive, mood disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a somatic disorder, the lawsuit stated. She had also attempted suicide on two other occasions.
The attending staff psychiatrist told Ms. Haptonstall that she would be discharged from the program for her unwillingness to follow treatment recommendations and therefore canceled that day’s therapy session. However the cancellation was not properly communicated and a staff member took Ms. Haptonstall out of her locked unit along with other patients. Ms. Haptonstall was visibly upset and angry, according to The Gazette.
The staff’s failure to follow the proper protocol allowed Ms. Haptonstall to slip away. She made her way to the multilevel parking deck and jumped from the fifth floor.
The fall left her with several critical injuries, including an amputation of one leg, fractured neck, punctured lungs, broken ribs, and brain bleed. After a prolonged hospital stay, Ms. Haptonstall died on July 22, 2017, “from complications of the fall,” The Gazette reported, citing the lawsuit.
In settling the case, UI Physicians, a medical group at the UI Carver College of Medicine, agreed to pay $1.25 million. The State of Iowa agreed to pay the other $1.25 million out of the state’s general fund.
The Gazette reported in 2015 that UI officials were considering installing barriers around the parking ramps in response to four suicide attempts, three of which resulted in deaths. The university told The Gazette that it had begun installing the barricades at a cost of $1.3 million.