Widow files lawsuit against counselors in spouse's suicide

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EBENSBURG -- A Cambria County jury heard testimony last week in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a Johnstown-area woman who claims Conemaugh Counseling Associates failed to provide proper care for her husband.

Gerry Sedlemyer, widow of David Sedlemyer, is blaming the medical facility for the death of her husband, who jumped from the McNally Bridge in mid-2010.

Dave Sedlemyer was a car sales manager at places like Wheeler Pontiac-Cadillac-Mitsubishi and other dealers before he ended his life at the age of 54, his widow told the jury.

Through her attorney, William Anzalone, she is alleging that her husband spent nearly a year seeking psychiatric help from professionals at Conemaugh, but never was able to see a psychiatrist.

She alleges that her husband's care was relegated to a physician assistant and she is questioning the extent of doctor involvement in his case.

Conemaugh is represented by attorney Michael Sosnowski of Hollidaysburg, who in opening arguments painted a picture of a man who at times was noncompliant and did not always follow through with prescribed therapy and other treatments.

Mr. Anzalone said Mr. Sedlemyer went through hard times starting in 2008, when he lost his job because Wheeler, his employer for two decades, went out of business. A sister and an aunt with whom he was close died at about the same time, and he went into a depression and suffered from anxiety and paranoia.

Delusional thoughts led Mr. Sedlemyer to believe that police suspected him of selling drugs from the glove compartment of his car and were watching him, according to testimony.

In late October and early November 2009, Mr. Sedlemyer spent two weeks in the psychiatric ward at Conemaugh and was discharged with medication.

On July 22, 2010, Mr. Sedlemyer parked his car on the McNally Bridge and jumped over the rail, plunging 192 feet to his death, Mr. Anzalone told the jury.

In reaching a verdict, Mr. Sosnowski told the jury, the plaintiff has to prove that Conemaugh was not just negligent in its care, but grossly negligent.

Key, he said, is if Mr. Sedlemyer's death could have been reasonably predicted or prevented.

There was no history of any attempted suicide, which would have served as a red flag, Mr. Sosnowski said, adding that the care rendered to him was "perfectly appropriate and well within the standards at that time.

"It is difficult if a patient does not engage in his treatment," Mr. Sosnowski said.

The trial, in the courtroom of Cambria County Judge Patrick Kiniry, is expected to reach the jury this week.

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