Families suing St. Joseph's Hamilton for $8.5M

The families of two men who took their own lives while under suicide watch at a Hamilton mental healthcare provider are filing $8.5 million negligence lawsuits against it.

Brandon Taylor and Joel Verge died in separate incidents at St. Joseph's West 5th Campus in 2016 -- two of 11 suicide cases at the facility in the past two years.

29-year-old Taylor was admitted to the psychiatric unit after trying to take his life by an alcohol and drug overdose, and was under a suicide watch requiring staff to monitor him every 15 minutes.

Investigations after his death in August revealed he had access to his cell phone, and used it to research methods of suicide in the days beforehand.

42-year-old Verge admitted himself to the hospital for help with mental health and substance abuse issues, and attempted suicide while under one-on-one "constant observation".

"Each of the cases there clearly was a blatant disregard for the patient's safety," lawyer Michael Smitiuch told NEWSTALK 1010.

"The lawsuit is a negligence claim against the hospital for failing to properly supervise both of these individuals, and secondly giving them the actual means to take their own lives."

Stu Taylor, Brandon's father, believes he will never recover from the grief and says he cannot fathom how patients were able to take their own lives.

"He was supposed to be on suicide watch and that room [he was in], that just wasn't suicide watch."

Responding to the lawsuit, St. Joseph's Hamilton said it is deeply saddened by the pain and loss suffered by both families.

"We are keenly aware of the questions and challenges of helping those in deep despair who suffer with the anguish of suicidal thoughts," says president David Higgins.

"Earlier this year, we asked two experts to conduct an independent review of suicides that occurred involving patients within our organization or associated with programs in the community."

Higgins says St. Joseph's Hamilton has already started implementing some of the recommendations made as a result of that review.

The next step in the legal process is for St. Joseph's Hamilton to lodge a Statement of Defence.