Pittsburgh hospital wants lawsuit over emotional damage from shooting tossed

Attorneys say women were not physically injured or in a 'zone of danger'


July 30--Attorneys for Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, UPMC and its doctors asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit from a family claiming emotional damage from a shooting spree two years ago.

The attorneys on Monday asked Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick to dismiss all claims brought by the Seefeldt family.

Becky Seefeldt was visiting her daughter, Marianna Seefeldt, a patient at Western Psych, on March 8, 2012, the day John Shick, 30, of Oakland shot and killed a therapist and wounded four in the lobby before police shot and killed him.

Becky Seefeldt was leaving the lobby, heard gunshots and saw that Jeremy Byers, a security guard, was shot, according to court documents.

Marianna Seefeldt, a patient on the third floor, was told to hide under furniture in a dark room and then escorted out of the building by SWAT officers. As she left, she "witnessed the aftermath of the shooting, including large amounts of blood and the deceased gunman," the family's complaint stated.

Attorneys for the hospital and doctors argued that the Seefeldts did not show how alleged negligence by the hospital caused emotional distress. The Seefeldts were not physically injured, not in a "zone of danger" and did not fear injury or see a relative injured, attorneys wrote.

If Wettick does not dismiss the entire lawsuit, the attorneys asked that he make a similar ruling to his decisions in the lawsuits of Byers, Kathryn Leight, a receptionist shot and wounded, and UPMC employee Keith Taylor, also wounded. In May, Wettick dismissed most of the claims made by those victims.

A $500,000 insurance payment, to be split among eight victims -- including the family of Michael Schaab, 25, of Regent Square, whom Shick shot to death -- will settle lawsuits against Shick's estate.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

Copyright 2014 - The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review