Psychiatrist Ordered to Pay $4.6 million in damages

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The New York Times
PATIENT AWARDED $4.6 MILLION
July 8, 1981

A psychiatrist who admitted having sex with a patient in two years of $110-a-week therapy sessions was ordered today to pay $4.6 million in damages to the woman.

The patient’s attorney, Marvin Lewis, said it was the largest psychological injury award granted in the country. After half a day of deliberations, the 10-woman, two-man jury decided unanimously that Dr. Zane Parzen of La Jolla, Calif., should be ordered to pay damages to Evelyn Walker, 41 years old, of San Diego.

In testimony, Mrs. Walker said she made numerous suicide attempts while under the care of Dr. Parzen from 1974 to 1976. She also testified that he had prescribed large amounts of sedatives and that she was taking 50 to 60 pills a day at one point.

Breakup of Marriage

Mrs. Walker, who was described as a borderline psychotic at the trial, told the Superior Court jury that her marriage broke up while she was having the affair with Dr. Parzen and said that she had been led to believe that Dr. Parzen was going to divorce his wife to marry her.

Mr. Lewis successfully made the claim that Mrs. Walker’s condition deteriorated while under Dr. Parzen’s care. “She hasn’t had any peace since Dr. Parzen did this diabolical thing to her,” Mr. Lewis said.

Suspended by State Board

Dr. Parzen was suspended by the State Board of Medical Quality Assurance for one year after he admitted having sex with Mrs. Walker. Two other such suits are pending against him.

In the first phase of the hearing, the jury decided the woman could sue for damages despite the fact the one-year statute of limitations in personal injury cases had expired. Mrs. Walker filed the suit in 1979, two and half years after she stopped seeing Dr. Parzen.

The jury decided Mrs. Walker should be able to collect damages because she was nearly psychotic and unable to determine whether she had been injured.