Warren murder suspect sues health care providers

Owen Morris alleges that EBCAP and two practitioners' negligence led to 'psychiatric episode' on day of killing in January 2018

By Ted Hayes
Posted 4/14/21

A Warren man accused of murdering his former chiropractor more than three years ago has filed a civil suit against two health care practitioners and a Newport psychological health care service, …

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Warren murder suspect sues health care providers

Owen Morris alleges that EBCAP and two practitioners' negligence led to 'psychiatric episode' on day of killing in January 2018

Posted

A Warren man accused of murdering his former chiropractor more than three years ago has filed a civil suit against two health care practitioners and a Newport psychological health care service, alleging negligence in the months leading up to the victim's death on Jan. 10, 2018.

Owen Morris, now 24, has been awaiting trial at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston since late January 2018, charged in the slaying of East Providence chiropractor Dr. Clive Bridgham earlier that month. After being indicted by the statewide grand jury, Mr. Morris pleaded not guilty to a first degree murder charge in August 2018. Prosecutors are seeking life without parole.

In the civil suit filed in Providence Superior Court, Mr. Morris seeks unspecified compensatory damages from the East Bay Community Action Program, a Newport social services agency, as well as Diane Fletcher and Tracy Greene, who were employed by the agency as health care workers at the time of the crime.

Mr. Morris's attorney, Gil A. Bianchi Jr., did not return a telephone call seeking comment on the suit. But he wrote in the complaint that the defendants' negligence in the months leading up to Dr. Bridgham's death led Mr. Morris to suffer a "psychiatric episode" on the day the doctor was repeatedly stabbed and killed.

In the three months leading up to the doctor's death, Ms. Fletcher, Ms. Greene and the East Bay Community Action Program provided health care services to Mr. Morris, which in Ms. Greene's case ended Jan. 11, 2018, the day following the killing. Ms. Fletcher worked with Mr. Morris until Jan. 16, 2018, six days after the killing, and Mr. Morris continued to work with EBCAP until the day of his arrest on Jan. 22, 2018.

Referring to all three defendants, the suit claims they had a duty "to exercise the degree of care and skill that was expected of a reasonably competent practitioner."

"Nevertheless, (the three defendants) failed to exercise the requisite degree of care and skill in (their) provision of health care and treatment ... thereby causing (Mr. Morris) to suffer and become afflicted with severe personal injuries and extreme pain and suffering."

As a result of that negligence and the ensuing psychiatric episode, Mr. Morris "was severely and permanently injured, has suffered loss of freedom, has suffered and will in the future suffer great pain of body, nerves and nervous system, was rendered disabled, has expended and will in the future become liable to pay large sums of money for medical, hospital and other health care expenses, has suffered lost wages, and ... was and is permanently injured," the suit contends.

Mr. Morris, a twin whose family owns homes in Warren and on Prudence Island, is a former lacrosse player at the University of Rhode Island who previously attended the Wheeler School. It is through his athletic pursuits that he first started working with Dr. Bridgham, a noted sports physician who once operated the Barrington Chiropractic and Sports Medicine Clinic.

The relationship between the two had become strained in the years leading up to the doctor's death. Mr. Morris filed a complaint against Dr. Bridgham with the Rhode Island Department of Health in 2016, alleging that the doctor “violated the professional boundaries of the chiropractic physician-patient relationship” during the course of their acquaintance. As a result of Mr. Morris's complaint, Dr. Bridgham voluntarily surrendered his license in November 2017.

Mr. Morris has been awaiting trial at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston for more than three years. He is represented in his criminal case by attorneys John MacDonald and Barrington resident Jason Knight, also a representative for District 67 in the state House of Representatives, covering Warren and Barrington.

Rep. Knight said recently that progress on the case has been stalled in part by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has made it difficult to have normal interactions with his client.

"This was a difficult case in the first place," Rep. Knight said. "There was a lot of effort up front in terms of preparing to talk to the attorney general's offie about the case, and we had just concluded that once the pandemic hit."

As for his client, Mr. Knight said Mr. Morris is doing as well as could be expected for a person in his position.

"It's tough, like it is for anybody," he said. "It's particularly tough for Owen because of the extended time. He's taking it day by day."

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.