A 27-year-old female Maine mental health worker filed a federal lawsuit on May 19, 2014 for the injuries she suffered on March 16, 2013 when she was repeatedly stabbed by a patient who was known to the facility to be violent, alleging that her employer failed to protect her. The plaintiff was 18 weeks pregnant at the time of the attack.
The psychiatric hospital where the attack occurred is the only hospital in Maine that treats patients with mental illness who have committed violent crimes and have been referred for commitment by courts.
Less than one week before the attack, the plaintiff alleges that she advised her supervisor that she felt unsafe working on a floor of the psychiatric hospital that housed known violent patients who were known to have threatened or attached workers in the past.
The plaintiff claims that she was not told that her attacker had a long history of violence. The day before the attack, the patient was advised that he would not be allowed to visit his parents’ home the following Saturday. As he punched and repeatedly stabbed the plaintiff with a pen during the attack, the plaintiff curled up in the fetal position and placed her hands over her head to protect her face and head. Nonetheless, the level of violence was so great that the plaintiff had to have surgery to remove the end of the pen from her hand. The attack ended only when another staff member and a patient were able to intervene.
In January 2014, a judge convicted the 48-year-old patient of aggravated assault after concluding that his actions were based on anger and not due to mental illness. He faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
The plaintiff’s pregnancy was not effected by the attack and she has since given birth to a healthy baby. However, she has not returned to work since the attack, she has not been released to work by her physician, and she alleges that she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of the attack.
The psychiatric hospital and the State of Maine also suffered negative consequences from the violent attack: the psychiatric hospital responded to the attack by bringing in correctional officers to monitor specific patients, which led to federal regulators to object to the new measures; the correctional officers’ stun guns and handcuffs were taken from them in May 2013. By August 2013, some of the correctional officers who were employed by the county were removed from the facility (state correctional officers remained at the facility). A federal audit of the facility resulted in its loss of $20 million in federal funds (about one-half of the hospital’s budget). The Superintendent left her position in March 2014 after only five years on the job.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks an undisclosed sum in damages.
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