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MIT Submits Responses to Shin Lawsuit

MIT Denies Wrongdoing, Claims Shin’s Parents Knew of Mental Health Problems

By Qian Wang


MIT Friday submitted its first detailed, point-by-point response to the $27 million lawsuit by the parents of Elizabeth H. Shin ’02.

Friday’s response was submitted for Random Hall Housemaster Nina J. Davis-Millis, Associate Dean Arnold R. Henderson, Associate Dean Ayida Mthembu, former Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin, CP dispatcher Orlando Tirella, and Officer Paul Valentino.

Yesterday, a response was filed for MIT Medical mental health doctors Peter Reich, M.D., Kristine Girard, M.D., Lili Gottfried, M.D., and Anthony Van Niel, M.D. A separate response was filed for Linda L. Cunningham, M.D. These responses were filed separately because the defendants obtained counsel outside of MIT’s attorneys, Palmer and Dodge, LLP.

MIT alleges Shins had knowledge

In the response filed Friday, MIT lawyers denied all possible wrongdoing and negligence by MIT, its deans, and campus police. The responses filed yesterday also deny any wrongdoing.

MIT claimed Shin’s parents had prior knowledge of her emotional problems both in high school and at MIT. In the response, MIT denied that Shin’s psychological issues started during her freshman year at MIT. The response also claimed that Shin “began to experience psychiatric problems, including self-mutilating behavior, during high school” based on information provided by the Shin family lawyers of records of Shin’s stay at McLean Hospital after her overdose on Tylenol in 1999 and an analysis of the lawsuit by a psychiatrist retained by the Shins’ counsel.

The response also claimed that according to McLean Hospital records provided by the Shin family lawyers, Shin’s parents were fully aware of her Tylenol overdose and hospitalization because they were notified by Shin’s housemaster, Davis-Millis, who received permission from Shin to inform her parents. It also stated that her “mother considered it a suicide attempt and was reported to be angry at Ms. Shin, disappointed, and sad because of it; and that Ms. Shin’s father was reported to be surprised and saddened by her actions.”

DeLuca unhappy with response

David A. DeLuca, a lawyer for the Shins, was displeased with MIT’s allegations. “I am disappointed that the only response they can provide is to attack Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s parents,” DeLuca said. “MIT’s characterization of Mrs. Shin is grossly unfair. No one from MIT has ever even tried to speak with her. She was extremely supportive of her daughter.”

DeLuca said he feels strongly that MIT did not care for Shin to the best of its ability. “The issue is how effective MIT was in treating Elizabeth. They admit they knew about her problems, yet they still did not do anything” he said.

MIT claims it provided apt care

MIT admitted that the administrators and doctors named in the case had knowledge that Shin was cutting herself, had suicidal thoughts, and was depressed. However, MIT claimed that doctors treated her as best they could and at no time believed she was a threat to herself or was in imminent danger.

The responses filed yesterday denied all allegations of malpractice and stated that MIT made every effort to provide a safe environment for Shin at MIT while properly looking after and treating her.

The doctors denied that “the Mental Health Services lacked proper staffing levels, coordination of care or appropriate protocols for the treatment of students needing care.”

MIT also stated that doctors did not notify Shin’s parents of all of her problems because Shin felt pressured by her parents, and doctors did not wish to alienate her.

Daryl Lapp, a lawyer for Palmer and Dodge representing MIT, said he was satisfied with the responses and felt the litigation process was proceeding smoothly. “Both parties are gathering information; we’re in the discovery phase,” Lapp said. “It is going to be a long process.”