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Okanagan psychiatrist loses case against Interior Health, $9M payout for patient assault

The doctor had been attacked by a patient in 2014
Officers of the B.C. Sheriff Services lead Gregory Stanley Nield of Summerland to a waiting vehicle at the back of the Penticton provincial courthouse on Dec. 9, 2014. (Western News - File)

The psychiatrist who sued Interior Health after being attacked at Penticton Regional Hospital had his case dismissed, along with a potential $9 million in a lengthy decision issued on March 4, 2022.

Dr. Rajeev Sheoran was knocked unconscious and had his jaw broken in 2014 in an appointment for Gregory Nield, a Summerland man and a world-ranked jiu-jitsu martial artist who was being involuntarily held after self-medicating with magic mushrooms.

Nield was found guilty of aggravated assault in a separate criminal trial in 2017, for which he received 30 months of probation, which he appealed in 2019 before the charges were dropped in 2020.

READ MORE: Man accused of attacking Penticton doctor has charges dropped by Crown

In his judgment, Justice Steven Wilson found that Interior Health had not been negligent in their handling of Nield and that Sheoran had failed to prove whether that IH had provided the appropriate standard of care.

As a result of the assault, Sheoran suffered multiple injuries that resulted in him needing a prosthetic cheekbone, dental work and left him with major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit had claimed that Interior Health (IH) had failed to conduct the required violence risk assessment for the inpatient psychiatry unit (IPU) at the hospital prior to the incident, and Nield should have been transferred to another facility. Sheoran stated that the information he had going into the appointment was out of date and incomplete and that IH should have used its aggressive behaviour assessment scale, to place Nield as a higher risk patient.

According to the decision, transfers from a facility like the IPU are done by police after two weeks of treatment if the patient is still resistant and if the facility where he would transfer to has an open bed and a committee reviews and approves the transfer.

The decision also said that the violence risk and the aggressive behaviour assessment would not likely have changed the circumstances that led to the assault and that Sheoran had effectively taken the position of asking for a patient’s information to be charted twice.

Justice Wilson found that Sheoran had failed to provide enough evidence to prove that IH was negligent in providing the appropriate standard of care, and that “In the context of this violent assault, one can always speculate with the benefit of hindsight about what could have been done to prevent it, but that alone is insufficient,” he wrote.

“While there may be cases where a breach of the standard of care might be inferred from all of the surrounding facts and circumstances or alternatively is so obvious that expert evidence is not required, this is not such a case.”

Despite dismissing Sheoran’s claim, the decision still goes into details on what damages Sheoran would have been granted had he been successful.

It would have included $32,000 for special damages for the costs of the treatment Sheoran had received, including the counselling and orthodontic work, following the attack and $40,000 for future care costs; $5.8 million for the loss of future income due to the incident and $2.6 million for past lost earnings.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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