The Washington Supreme Court recently ruled that the family of a murdered Spokane woman and her son can sue the killer’s psychiatrist. The family says that the doctor in question should have done more to protect the victims in this case.
According to police reports, Rebecca Schiering and her 9-year-old son were killed by her ex-finace. Jan DeMeerler killed the pair in 201o, also attempting to kill a 17-year-old son but failing to do so. A second 9-year-old escaped harm, and DeMeerler committed suicide.
Family members told reporters that the woman had moved out of DeMeerler’s home only two months prior to the attack. She had moved out after the man had hurt one of her sons. The couple attempted to patch things up but broke up for good the day before DeMeerler killed the woman and her child.
The family of Schiering sued DeMeerler’s psychiatrist, Dr. Howard Ashby. Also named in the lawsuit was Spokane Psychiatric Clinic. The family said that more should have been done to protect Schiering and her children. During nine years of therapy at the clinic, DeMeerler had talked about suicide and homicide. The clinic said that though these topics were discussed, DeMeerler never talked about having an actual plan, thus the clinic had no duty to the victims.
The high court issued a 6-3 opinion that the lawsuit could move forward. Justices assenting to the suit said that the doctor knew of DeMeerler’s history of thoughts and should have recognized that the man was unstable. Dissenting justices said that the litigation may be unnecessary and that there was no medical negligence in the case.
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