Father seeks redress in civil action for death of son, James Scott Johnson


PRESTONSBURG – Arnold R. Johnson of Melvin filed a civil action earlier this week in which he alleges that the death of his son, James Scott Johnson, resulted when Dr. Ramankar V. Tiruchinapalli “wrongfully” discharged him from the psychiatric ward of the Hazard Medical Center on September 21, 2007.

The lawsuit, filed by Kirk Law Firm, seeks $8 million in punitive damages and other, unspecified, damages against the doctor, Hazard Medical Center and Appalachian Regional Hospital, Inc.

Scott, according to Kirk’s complaint, was a graduate of South Floyd High School where “he was a normal, attractive and handsome young man” and that he “was a good son” and that his “Mother and Father loved him dearly.”

According to the complaint, some months ago “Scott developed mental issues that worsened over time” and that he received treatment for his mental problems from the Defendants.

Prior to August 30, 2007, the suit says, Scott had been treated by Dr. Tiruchiapalli and had been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. After his release on August 30, 2007, Scott became “worse,” it is alleged, and was re-admitted on September 4, 2007 to the care of Defendants.

After his re-admission, Scott’s parents visited with him, the suit alleges, and “found Scott’s paranoia to be so severe that he, among other things, told them that he could never go home again because he would be followed there to Mother’s and Father’s home and that the ‘killers’ would kill him and also kill Mother and Father.” During this time, Scott was placed on “Suicide Precautions” status, it is alleged.

“Scott told Joan (his mother) and me that he had to stay at the hospital. He said that if he was released that the ‘Mob’ would kill him and also his mother and me. He thought that if he stayed at the hospital we would all be safe. We begged them to let him stay and we begged them to treat him and help him,” Arnold Johnson said, “but they wouldn’t do it.”

The lawsuit alleges that Scott was discharged on September 20, 2007 while he was still “suicidal.” Shortly after his release to their home at Melvin, Scott shot and killed himself.

“That very day,” Johnson said. “Just a few short hours after going home he did it and he did it out of love. He did it because he loved his mother and me. He thought by taking his own life he would save us, save us from the ‘Mob’. He thought we were all safe while he was at the hospital.”

An alleged suicide note is attached to the complaint and it says, “Dear Mom and Dad, I writing to tell I have to go. God will forgive me because of my situation. After I go please keep good check of the cars and when you drive be extra careful. Tell Steven and his family I love them. Jacob can have everything I got. The mob wants me dead. Get mom a dog to keep her from being board. I’m so sorry I have to do this. Please dad help mom through it. Keep Faith in God.”

According to the complaint, Scott Johnson was discharged “negligently and/or for economic reasons.”

“This good family has been devastated,” John Kirk said. “Scott was a bright light. Something happened to him and he got mentally mixed up so bad that he did not know what was real. He imagined a world in which bad people were going to kill him and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson unless he remained in the hospital. He needed treatment. He need help. He did not get it. Sending him away in his condition is analogous to discharging someone in the middle of a stroke or heart attack. Something bad had to happen and something awful did.”

According to the complaint, Scott was discharged because of “funds.” “That’s right,” Arnold Johnson said. “That’s what his doctor told me when I was begging them to let him stay. I told them we were working on the payments and all that but for them to please, please help him.”

Arnold R. Johnson is, he said, severely disabled. “I was busted up in the mines,” he said. “I’ve lost one leg below the knee and have another one almost as bad. I’ve had open heart surgery, I have black lung and diabetes, but nothing hurts like this, like losing Scott. He meant everything.”