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Plaintiff: Theresa Roberson, 
representing the estate of Alan Martin

Defendants: D.C. government; 
Department of Mental Health Director Martha Knisley; St. Elizabeths officials Joy Holland, T. Allen Gore, Lenore Teter, Sayed Zaidi, and Wusa Jibril

Damages Sought: $15 million

Complaint: On April 1, 2004, Martin was “involuntarily admitted” to St. Elizabeths for bipolar disorder. Three days later, another male patient thought the new guy needed a beating. He threw Martin down and began to stomp on his head. His neck cracked, his skull fractured, and some 11 months later, Martin was dead of his injuries.

Quality of Representation: Good. Verbose lawyers should check out the list of facts. It’s just four paragraphs, but each element of the story is there: Martin’s loss of freedom, the assault, the injuries, the fatal consequence. Attorneys William Lightfoot, Paulette Chapman, and Kelly Fisher keep their arguments brief, too. But they did leave out a simple fact—what exactly is Roberson’s relation to the deceased?

Summary Judgment: Let the sunshine in. What the complaint doesn’t get into are any specific instances of neglect by St. Elizabeths—that’s what discovery is for. If history is any guide, the numerous documents the hospital will have to produce in the coming months will make it easy for plaintiff’s attorneys to show just how a patient can be battered to death in St. E’s care. When that happens, we rule that in addition to paying its damages, the defendants shall be required to man the Xerox machines for all future St. Elizabeths litigation. That should provide them a little more incentive to clean things up over there.