The state appeals court Tuesday affirmed an Oconto County judge's ruling that a social worker could not be sued in connection for the lack of a mental commitment against a man who would later kill his mother and nephew.
William Hammersley used a shotgun to kill his mother, Judy Hammersley, and his nephew, Nicholas Hammersley, on June 16, 2005. He claimed his actions were under the direction of the devil and then-President George Bush.
The day before, a police deputy had requested assistance from Dawn Pabich, a licensed Oconto County social worker, in determining whether further action was necessary to address Hammersley's erratic behavior. After speaking with Pabich, the deputy decided against initiating an emergency detention. After the murders, Hammersley's father and the estates of those killed filed a civil suit, seeking damages from the social worker and others.
Marinette County Judge David Miron dismissed the case, ruling the law gives those officials immunity. An appeal was filed. The court upheld Miron's ruling.
In Tuesday's decision, the appeals court wrote:
"Pabich's actions here fall within the plain language of the statute. According to the undisputed facts, Pabich aided Angus in determining whether Hammersley was a proper subject for emergency detention. Specifically, Pabich stated that her primary task was to evaluate whether Hammersley suffered from a mental illness. She also assisted Angus in assessing whether Hammerlsey was dangerous. Accordingly, Pabich is immune if her actions were taken in good faith...
The Estates have not claimed here that Pabich acted dishonestly, or that her actions were fraudulent or deceitful. Nothing in the record suggests that Pabich was motivated by anything other than a desire to assist Angus in performing his duties under Wis. Stat. § 51.15. The Estates' sole assertion is that Pabich's evaluation was inadequate and that her analysis, given the facts known to her at the time, was so grossly negligent as to create a triable issue regarding Pabich's good faith...
In light of these undisputed facts, we conclude that no reasonable fact-finder could infer a lack of good faith. This was not an instance in which Pabich merely went through the motions; she asked relevant questions, some repeatedly, and used the information given to draw a conclusion about whether Hammersley was dangerous. Pabich acknowledged that her conclusion would have been different had she known the details of Hammersley's domestic abuse arrest. However, her good faith cannot be impugned, or the adequacy of her investigation called into doubt, by the failure of others to disclose that information in response to her questioning," the court wrote.
Hammersley was found not competent stand trial.
Marinette Marine is preparing to christen one of its Littoral Combat Ships.
A survey of local businesses looked at employee numbers and overall outlook for the coming year.
Those who do go to the Packers-Falcons game Sunday will help honor a green and gold legend.
The cold caused some problems in the Fox Valley Friday.
A donation from an area bank will be making a difference in the years to come for Green Bay East High School.
A Pearl Harbor survivor was given a special honor Friday morning at Green Bay East High School.