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                         Copyright 1995 Star Tribune
                         Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

                         August 1, 1995, Metro Edition

SECTION: News; Pg. 1B

LENGTH: 746 words

HEADLINE: Jury awards patient $2.6 million; Verdict finds therapist
Humenansky liable in repressed-memory trial

BYLINE: Paul Gustafson; Staff Writer

    A White Bear Lake woman who claimed she was injured by false
memories of abuse implanted by her psychiatrist was awarded more than
$2.6 million Monday by a Ramsey County jury.

    Jurors took less than 10 hours over two days following a six-week
trial to award Vynnette Hamanne more than $2 million for pain and
suffering, lost earnings and medical expenses up to the time of trial.

    She was awarded an additional $461,000 for future damages, and
her husband, Kenneth, was awarded $210,000 for loss of partnership.

    Hamanne and her attorneys charged that Dr. Diane Humenansky, a St.
Paul psychiatrist, told her that she suffered from multiple
personality disorder and must have been repeatedly sexually abused by

    Humenansky also told Hamanne that she could not remember the abuse
because she suffered from repression, and that to be helped she would
have to "recover" memories of the abuse, the White Bear Lake woman
alleged in her lawsuit.

    Defense lawyers had acknowledged that Humenansky made some errors
but argued that most of the problems suffered by the Hamannes were not
caused by the doctor.

    They had asked the jury to award damages of about $250,000.

    "I'm really very glad. It's been a long seven years," Vynnette
Hamanne said after the jury returned its verdicts. "We just want to
get on with the rest of our lives."

    R. Christopher Barden, a Minneapolis attorney representing the
Hamannes, said the verdicts were a just award for the damage resulting
from an "unscientific and unreliable" form of treatment. "This family
has been devastated for about seven years," he said.

    The jury's findings also should serve as a "warning shot across
the bow" to other psychiatrists and psychologists who champion the
recovery of repressed memories of abuse in their patients, he said.

    Barden said he also expects the jury award to spur new settlement
discussions in the cases of five other former Humenansky patients he
represents who have sued the psychiatrist over similar claims.

    Phil Villaume, Humenansky's personal attorney, said Monday night
that the psychiatrist "is very upset. She does not think the verdicts
are a true and accurate depiction of what took place."

    Humenansky and her insurance company have been at odds on many
issues since Hamanne's lawsuit was filed, and Villaume said the
psychiatrist "will personally exercise any and all appeals rights she
has to protect her name and reputation."
    The case appears to be the nation's first to go to trial in which
a psychiatrist was sued for inducing false memories of abuse.

    However, it may have fallen short of being the major legal
showdown between critics of "false memory syndrome" and those who
claim that repressed memories of childhood abuse can be retrieved
through psychotherapy.

    District Judge Bertrand Poritsky ruled during the trial in St.
Paul that theories of memory repression have no scientific validity
and barred any testimony on them. But that was in part because many of
Humenansky's practices and beliefs seemed far beyond the
repressed-memory mainstream.

    The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice ordered Humenansky to
undergo a physical and psychological examination earlier this year
after questions were raised about her fitness to practice medicine.
Villaume said she continues to hold her medical license.

    The case also may be unique because of the problems that plagued
the defense team from friction between Humenansky and her insurance

    She fired one set of lawyers early this year, then tried to fire
the second on the eve of the trial, after they suggested that she
settle out of court. Her malpractice carrier, Legion Insurance Co.,
exercised its right to keep the second set of lawyers, but lead
attorney Debra Davy of Chicago had to withdraw midway through the
trial for medical reasons.

    Humenansky offered, then withdrew, her consent to settle, and her
remaining lawyers repeatedly filed for a mistrial.

    In rejecting the final mistrial motion last week, Poritsky said,
"The defense has a number of wounds, but they're all self-inflicted."

    The insurance company also has a declaratory judgment action
pending against Humenansky in Ramsey County District Court in which it
asks to be relieved of responsibility for damages in the case because
of her actions.

GRAPHIC: Photograph

Copyright 1995 Star Tribune. Republished here with the permission of the Star Tribune. No further republication or redistribution permitted without the express written consent of the Star Tribune.

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