Frasier, Capacity: Crane v Crane

In the third season of Frasier, Niles is retained to testify in a capacity hearing of local millionaire timber baron Harlow Safford aged 78. Following several incidents including disposing of property cheaply, hopping a freight train across the country, and showing signs of senility, Safford’s son is concerned about his capacity.

Frasier is set in Seattle Washington; under Washington State Law in order to be found to be lacking capacity a person (referred to as the principal) must be informed that a request has been made; be examined personally by at least one mental health professional or health care provider prior to making that determination (who must be a psychiatrist, physician assistant working with a supervising psychiatrist, psychologist, or a psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioner)and may request that the determination be made by a Court.

When making a determination the Court shall, at a minimum, be informed by the testimony of one mental health professional familiar with the principal and shall, except for good cause, give the principal an opportunity to appear before the Court prior to making its determination.

Niles believing Safford to be lucid for periods of time has agreed to speak as an expert witness for the son as to Safford’s mental capacity; as the case has a high profile it is to be broadcast on Court TV.

The following day Safford’s lawyer visits Frasier at work, asking him to meet Safford and appear on his behalf. Although Frasier is initially happy to accept Niles’ diagnosis, he accepts an invitation to meet Stafford; discovering that Safford’s mansion has a giant model railway in the grounds and a fireman’s pole in the living room. Frasier finds Safford, (who calls him Sparky) charming, coherent and stable, explaining that he sold a property cheaply in order to help out a young couple; Illegally riding a freight train across the country to indulge his sense of adventure.

Frasier feels Niles has made a misdiagnosis; however, his attempts to convince him to change his testimony outrages Niles, exacerbating their sibling rivalry; as Frasier believes that Niles desire to appear on Court TV is an attempt to garner some of the fame that Frasier has established as a radio psychiatrist and that this desire is clouding his professional opinion.

In Court Safford’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. As Frasier is appearing pro bono Safford expresses his wish to donate a sum equal to his fee to charity; this leads to an outburst that disrupts proceedings. Safford then puts on a railway engineers cap and believing that he is a locomotive engineer announcing the stops his train will be making; this behaviour leads to the dismissal of the application.


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