Creasy v. Rusk
730 N.E.2d 659 (Ind. 2000)

  • Rusk was institutionalized and suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. He was often combative and belligerent.
  • Creasy was a nurse at the old folks home. Rusk kicked her in the back resulting in an injury. Creasy sued.
  • Rusk (technically Rusk's lawyer) moved for summary judgment, on the basis that Rusk was not mentally capable.
  • The Trial Court granted summary judgment and dismissed the case. Creasy appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded the case for trial. Rusk appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that, "a person's mental capacity, weather that person is a child or an adult, must be factored into the determination of whether a legal duty exists."
    • Basically, Rusk's mental incapacity was a fact that a jury needed to decide, so no summary judgment was warranted.
  • Back in the Trial Court, Rusk was found not liable.
    • The generally accepted rule is that mental disability does not excuse a person from liability for "conduct which does not conform to the standard of reasonable man under like circumstances."
    • Restatement of Torts 283B says that there are five reasons why people with mental disabilities should not avoid tort liability:
      • Allocates loss between two innocent parties to the one who caused or occasioned the loss.
        • This doesn't comport with other tort standards for assigning fault.
      • Provides incentive to those responsible for people with disabilities to restrain those who are potentially dangerous.
      • Removes inducements for people to fake mental incapacity to escape liability.
      • Avoids factual issues of assessing the extent of a person's mental disability.
      • Forces people with mental disabilities to "live in the real world," and encourages them to integrate into society.
    • However, the Court found that since Creasy was a nurse employed specifically to handle combative Alzheimer's patients, Creasy has no complaint for injuries sustained in doing so.
      • The objective standard of care applies, but a mentally disabled person, involuntarily hospitalized, does not owe a duty of care to his professional caregiver.
  • Btw, this same rule applies to people who are exceptionally stupid. They are still liable if they do not conform to the standard of care that a reasonable man would use.
    • Also true for drunks. Since you chose to get drunk you are still held to the standard of a sober person.
  • Should the rule that mentally incompetent people should use reasonable judgment also work when the person is the plaintiff? Can a defense of contributory negligence be used when someone injures a mentally incompetent person who didn't know enough to get out of danger?