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HICKS v. UNITED STATES

April 19, 1973

Hazel Morgan HICKS et al., Co-Administratrices, Estate of Corine Morgan, Deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Defendant


Curran, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CURRAN

This action is brought by the co-administratrices of the Estate of Corine Morgan, deceased, against the United States of America for the alleged negligence of its agent, St. Elizabeths Hospital, through which Corine Morgan met her death on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967. The action is brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), § 2671 et seq., and the District of Columbia Survival Statute, 12 D.C.C. § 101, and was tried without a jury.

 On July 11, 1966, Corine Morgan made a Complaint that on the previous July 7th Joseph Morgan, her husband assaulted her in their home by kicking, choking and beating her, threatening to "murder" her, and if he found her, he would kill her on the spot; whereupon she fled the home. Joseph Morgan was intoxicated at the time of the alleged assault. He was arrested and committed by the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions to the District of Columbia General Hospital for a mental observation and report. On August 11, 1966, the District of Columbia General Hospital reported to the court as follows:

 
"This patient was admitted to the Psychiatric Service of this hospital on July 12, 1966.
 
The patient denies the alleged offense, and it is difficult for us to evaluate just what was going on at that time, but the alleged offense, if it occurred, would in all probability be considered a product of his mental illness.
 
It is our opinion that the patient is able to understand the nature of the charge against himself, and despite his impaired mental functioning, probably able to assist counsel in his defense and competent to stand trial.
 
It is our opinion that the patient's mental impairment is such that he is not yet ready to function in society. This type of brain condition sometimes clears with the passage of time, good diet, and absolute abstinence from alcohol. We therefore think it would be important for him to receive further treatment and hospitalization, and recommend that he be committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital for the same. It is also our recommendation that he be given psychological tests in one month, and then again in six months (whether in the hospital or not) to see if there is any change in his mental condition."

 Upon presentation to the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions, Morgan was found to be Incompetent to stand trial and committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital, pursuant to 24 D.C. Code § 301, until mentally competent. This action occurred on August 12, 1966.

 On October 25, 1966, psychological tests were administered to the patient and reported as follows:

 
" General Impression :
 
Outstanding in the test results is organic brain damage due to the effects of a long history of alcohol consumption. Inner resources for the effective and efficient solution of every day problems are lacking. Stressful situations can bring on emotionally labile acting out aggressive behavior. Intellectual functioning rates borderline with a potential once before the present organic condition of average.
 
Observations :
 
Mr. Morgan submitted to the psychological evaluation but his behavior gave indication that he would have preferred not to. He was extremely evasive and cautious in what he said. He used considerable denial when asked questions regarding alcohol consumption and also questions regarding some of the details that he was relating concerning his family, himself and his past experiences.
 
Intellectual Functioning
 
Present Functioning Level: ...

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