The attorney for a woman injured in the shooting last year at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic said in a court filing Tuesday that his client has a right to sue the gunman’s mother.
Susan Shick has argued that Kathryn Leight and others who were shot or injured by her son, John Shick, on March 8, 2012, cannot sue her because Pennsylvania does not have jurisdiction over her, and that they cannot prove she had “minimum contacts” allowing her to be kept as a defendant in the suit.
The only basis under state law that could apply, her attorneys wrote in a November court filing, is if Ms. Shick caused “harm or tortious injury in this commonwealth by an act or omission outside this commonwealth,” which they say Ms. Leight’s attorneys cannot show.
“The extent of plaintiffs’ allegations concerning Susan Shick’s contacts with Pennsylvania pertain to a handful of telephone conversations with John Shick’s medical care providers located within this commonwealth,” Susan Shick’s attorneys wrote in November.
But according to the filing by Ms. Leight on Tuesday, Susan Shick did not have such limited contact with her son in Pennsylvania.
Instead, she visited him four separate times, for about a week each visit, between June and November 2011. Further, wrote attorney Mark J. Homyak, Susan Shick exchanged 87 emails with her son in Pittsburgh over a period of several months, spoke with her son 44 times on the phone, and with his medical providers in Pittsburgh eight times.
Based on that, Mr. Homyak wrote, “Susan clearly had more than minimum contacts with this jurisdiction, and her representations to the court regarding the allegedly limited nature of those contacts were clearly false.”
In his 68-page brief, Mr. Homyak listed extensively Susan Shick’s interactions with her son while he was in Pittsburgh to attend graduate school at Duquesne University.
The two sides are arguing their preliminary objections in the civil suit filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. On the issue of jurisdiction, Susan Shick was deposed for more than seven hours in October.
Mr. Homyak wrote that he has clearly made out a case against Ms. Shick.
“The averments of the second amended complaint and Susan’s email and telephone communications clearly establish that Susan was aware that when John’s schizophrenia was out of control, his previous armed interactions with previously unknown individuals repeatedly occurred,” Mr. Homyak wrote. “Susan knew of his obvious psychiatric disintegration in Pennsylvania, showing that he again posed a danger to himself and others during the time Susan continually breached her assumed duty of care here.”
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.