Attorneys debate protection of documents in Shick case

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An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge said he will likely decide next week whether the deposition and documents provided by the mother of the man who shot multiple people at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in 2012 should be kept confidential.

Susan Shick's attorney, Stuart H. Sostmann, asked last week for a protective order for her deposition and on emails between his client and her son, saying that disclosure would cause "substantial hardship, annoyance, embarrassment [and] oppression."

Allegheny County Common Pleas Senior Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. heard arguments on the motion Friday afternoon.

Ms. Shick, along with UPMC and others, are being sued by Kathryn Leight, a receptionist at UPMC who was wounded in the shooting on March 8, 2012, at the Oakland hospital. Killed in the shooting was milieu therapist Michael Schaab, 25.

John Shick, a 30-year-old schizophrenic, walked into Western Psych with two handguns, shooting six people before police shot and killed him.

As part of the lawsuit, Mark Homyak, Mrs. Leight's attorney, argues that Ms. Shick knew her son was dangerous and failed to take the appropriate steps to have him involuntarily committed and failed to provide full disclosure of his violent history to his treating physicians.

He has asked that Ms. Shick's motion be denied.

"Are you saying nothing should be protected?" Judge Wettick asked.

Mr. Homyak agreed.

"There's nothing to be gained here by you granting any part of it," he said. "It's overbroad. You told them to be specific and limit it, and they did not."

He estimated that Mr. Sostmann wants to keep about 75 percent of Susan Shick's deposition confidential.

"You start by presuming everything is open to the public, and then the burden shifts to you," Judge Wettick told Mr. Sostmann.

But the attorney responded by saying that any release of information now would prejudice his client in the future.

"I don't think at this stage it's ripe for public consumption."

But Judge Wettick said that there is a public interest in whether Ms. Shick had a duty to reveal information about her son to protect against an act like the Western Psych shooting.

"If we're talking about duty, then it seems to me all of it is relevant," Judge Wettick said.

Mr. Sostmann argued that he went through his client's recent deposition and the emails she provided and determined that some of them could serve a public interest, but many do not.

Attorneys for UPMC took no position on the confidentiality issue.

Michael O'Day, who is representing the parents of Michael Schaab, expressed his distaste at protecting Ms. Shick, who lives on a yacht with her husband as part of a retirement odyssey.

"I can't believe I'm going to be the one who has to say this: Are we going to be the one who protects Susan Shick's interest -- a woman who lives on a boat in the Caribbean?"

Paula Reed Ward:

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