Short family

The Short family.

GREENWOOD — Court documents of a newly filed lawsuit paint a picture of Brian Short’s last several days.

Brian Short was sleep-deprived, agitated, unable to sit and “pacing uncontrollably,” a lawsuit filed in July says. He had lost around 40 pounds in the last three months.

On Sept. 10, 2015, Brian Short shot and killed his children, Madison Short, Cole Short and Brooklyn Short, his wife Karen Short and then himself.

Brian Short had been seeing several medical professionals for his mental health, court documents filed by David Smits, the trustee for the next-of-kin for the Short family, show.

The lawsuit alleges “Brian’s severe, overwhelming and rapidly worsening medical condition caused him to shoot and kill" his children and his wife and then himself. "This tragic, horrific, and foreseeable outcome would have been prevented by minimally competent medical treatment.”

The lawsuit lists Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, Park Nicollet Health Services, Park Nicollet Enterprises, Park Nicollet Clinic, HealthPartners Medical Groups and Group Health Plan, Inc. as defendants. The summons and complaint were filed on July 30, 2019.

According to the court documents, Brian Short started having issues with depression and anxiety suddenly in June 2015.

The documents allege Park Nicollet “engaged in a pattern and practice of allowing non-physicians to direct and oversee medical treatment. Even though such practice deviated from the standard of care, especially in a case of serious psychiatric conditions.”

In response to the lawsuit, Park Nicollet released a statement saying, “We were deeply saddened to learn of this unimaginable tragedy. At this time, we are not able to discuss the details of this case because it’s in active litigation. As the court case proceeds, we believe the facts will show that our clinicians and care teams provided appropriate care.”

Timeline

Brian Short went to the Methodist Hospital Park Nicollet Urgent Care on June 16, 2015, and saw a physician’s assistant who gave Brian a prescription for Xanax as he was to see his general practitioner in two days, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges the clinic should have sent Brian to see a psychiatrist immediately to “assess whether he was a danger to himself or others,” and that failure to do this was the “proximate cause of the harm that befell Brian and his family.”

Brian Short saw his general practitioner on June 18, 2015. He was prescribed Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant, according to the Mayo Clinic. He was also given another prescription for Xanax to use infrequently, court documents say.

On June 27, 2015, Brian Short went back to urgent care at Methodist Hospital and saw the same physician’s assistant, telling him the Zoloft was not helping and he had run out of Xanax, the lawsuit alleges. He was then prescribed Ativan, also known as Lorazepam, which is used to treat anxiety disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic. He was also prescribed Ambien, also known as Zolpidem, a nervous system depressant used to treat insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

On July 6, 2015, Brian Short’s general practitioner doubled his Zoloft dosage and prescribed him Trazodone, a medication that increases the activity of serotonin in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. His doctor suggested he see a a counselor, the documents say.

On July 15, 2015, Brian Short underwent a psychiatric evaluation by an advanced practice registered nurse clinical specialist. At this appointment, it was noted he had thoughts of death and suicide. This is the first time he mentioned to a medical professional he had these thoughts, according to the court documents.

On July 28, 2015, the nurse who did his psychiatric evaluation increased his Zoloft dosage.

On Aug. 15, 2015, Brian Short met with the nurse again, noting the medications were not helping and he was feeling worse. The nurse switched him from Zoloft to a different SSRI, Lexapro, tapering him off the Zoloft and tapering him onto the Lexapro. At the same appointment, the nurse claimed Brian Short denied “suicidal/homicidal ideation, intent or plan,” according to the court documents.

In late August and early September, friends of Brian Short said he was severely agitated, unable to sit and sleep, frantically pacing back and forth, disheveled and disorganized. On Sept. 10, 2015, Brian Short killed his family and then himself. An autopsy drug screening for Brian included Lexapro and Trazodone, the lawsuit said.

Allegations

According to the lawsuit, the next-of-kin for the Short family alleges HealthPartners is liable for the deaths of the Short family because it is liable for the actions of its staff — the medical professionals who treated Brian Short.

The lawsuit alleges these medical professionals allegedly acted negligibly in several ways:

  • They failed to properly asses Brian Short’s condition and its worsening effect along with his severe weight loss.
  • They improperly treated him, which lead to worsening symptoms.
  • They improperly treated him by frequently changing his medications.
  • They failed to properly inform Brian Short and his family about the risks and benefits associated with prescribed medications, forms of therapy and possible alternative treatments.
  • They failed to refer Brian Short to a psychiatrist.
  • They failed to ask Brian Short or his family about access to guns or weapons while taking medication.
  • They failed to coordinate among all health care providers to create a treatment plan.
  • They “intentionally and/or negligently enacting policies that deviated from the standard care in an effort to save money and limit patient access to physicians and appropriate medical personnel and treatment.”

The lawsuit is seeking more than $50,000, plus costs and anything else the court deems fair. 

In the documented response to the lawsuit, the defendants deny most of the allegations. HealthPartners did confirm the medical professionals involved do work for Park Nicollet or HealthPartners and the dates they saw Brian Short. In regards to all of the other information alleged in the lawsuit, they denied or said they lack sufficient information to answer questions.

The lawsuit has the potential to go to a jury trail.

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.

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