$1.4 Million Settlement in Hospital Negligent Security Case After Patient Was Sexually Assaulted

The plaintiff, a 31-year-old female with a long history of mental illness, was sexually assaulted by a fellow patient while she was an inpatient at Central General Hospital in Plainview (now owned by North Shore University Hospital). The defendant-assailant pled guilty to a charge of sexual misconduct. The hospital staff and personnel disregarded the hospital's regulations and guidelines for safety of their patients because the staff did not conduct the checks they were supposed to during the time of the sexual assault. The protocol for checking on the patients every 15 minutes was violated by all members of the staff and our client was injured as a result.

Court and County
Supreme Court, Nassau County

Age and Occupation of Plaintiff
At the time of the incident, our client was a 31-year-old female with a long history of mental illness who was an in-patient at Central General Hospital in Plainview.

Description of the Case
On the date of the incident, our client was sexually assaulted by another in-patient at the hospital between 7:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. The nurses and the other staff members of the hospital failed to conduct the necessary safety checks that were in place to protect the patients from injury. The section of the hospital our client was in had a safety check policy that required nurses and other staff to check in on the patients every 15 minutes. The hospital also had a protocol requiring that each patient be checked on hourly. Each member of the hospital staff stated that these 15-minute checks and hourly checks were absolutely conducted in a timely manner to ensure the safety of everyone in the hospital.

On the date of the incident, the hospital staff failed to follow the policies that the hospital had in place. The head nurse and the assistant nurse on our client's floor claimed that the 15-minute check and the hourly check should have started at 7:00 p.m., but on the date of the incident the checks did not start until 7:10 p.m. and, in general, the checks had started late that day. Additionally, the security guard on the floor had taken dinner at 7:00 p.m. and was not present at the time of the assault. Because the checks started late, another in-patient who knew the schedule of the guard was able to sexually assault our client without the knowledge of the staff. Plaintiff argued that if the checks had been performed at the appropriate time, then this incident never would have happened.

Injuries and Damages
As a result of the hospital staff's conduct, our client was sexually assaulted. She also sustained injuries that will have lasting effects, and will need continued medical treatment for her mental illness because of this traumatic experience.

Settlement Amount
The plaintiff was awarded $1,400,000 in a settlement that was agreed upon while the case was on the trial calendar.

Handling Attorneys
The case was handled by Partners Daniel P. O'Toole and Jeffrey A. Block.