June 15, 2021

Sixty-two-year-old New York resident Chris Muth, known as the “Cat Man,” has reportedly settled his wrongful psychiatric commitment lawsuit for six figures arising out of his six-day stay in a hospital psychiatric ward in July 2008 after he told the police that a cat was trapped behind the wall of his New York apartment. Neighbors had called the police after Muth broke into an adjacent unoccupied apartment in an effort to rescue the cat that he had been taking care of for a friend.

Rumi, the wayward cat, had fallen down a narrow thirty-foot shaft and was trapped. The police disbelieved Muth’s explanation and the existence of a trapped cat, and believed that Muth was delusional. He was brought to Long Island College Hospital where he was admitted involuntarily into a psych ward and diagnosed as being delusional. Muth was given strong anti-psychotic medication (Haldol) against his will during his stay. After Muth was finally released, he discovered that his landlord had evicted him, he had lost his job, and that his girlfriend had left him (Muth and his girlfriend subsequently reconciled). It did not help his effort to be released when he told his doctor about his ownership of a painting by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (Muth does in fact own the painting).

Psychiatric reports submitted by Muth’s lawyer in his psychiatric malpractice lawsuit stated that the doctors improperly failed to attempt to verify the existence of the cat or his ownership of the valuable painting. The experts were also critical of the psych ward staff who administered Haldol without his consent and the lack of proper documentation regarding the need for the powerful medication.

(The cat was successfully rescued fourteen days later but supposedly suffered an eating disorder for the remainder of his eight-year life – “He had an eating disorder after that. You could not put down food in front of him. He wouldn’t stop eating.”)

Muth stated after the settlement was announced, “You have to be careful about what you say when you’re talking to a psychiatrist. I have more luck talking to people on the street without a college degree. Your entire life is out of your control. The idea of taking toxic chemicals into my body that were going to mess with my brain is really frightening.”

Muth praised the timing of the settlement because he intends to purchase a pastel study by Willem de Kooning of “Woman I” (the original is in Museum of Modern Art), which he plans to auction with bids starting at $20 million. Muth stated, “All of this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for this incident with the cat. I’m actually grateful for the experience. I’m so glad it happened to me.”


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