Mental healthcare facility fails to warn staff about violent resident

mental patientThis case takes place in Rhode Island and involves a plaintiff who was a residential counselor at a private level 14 facility operated by a high profile children’s mental health care concern. The facility serviced residents who were placed by county officials for such issues as developmental delays and behavioral problems, as well as other issues that could not be properly cared for in the home.

The plaintiff in this case was attacked by a resident of the facility who was, unbeknownst to the plaintiff, considered by many to be very dangerous. Before the attack, the resident had been charged with criminal assault and battery several times, had serious behavioral issues and exhibited sexually aggressive behavior that was severe enough to cause some of the higher-ups at the facility to consider sending him away several times for the safety of its staff.

Those in charge of the facility, however, failed to warn lower level caregivers who worked around the dangerous resident nearly every day, and eventually, the plaintiff was attacked by this dangerous resident. The attack occurred while she was five months pregnant, which caused her to go into early labor and deliver her baby prematurely. The plaintiff previously suffered fertility issues but was finally able to conceive her child after using Bravelle. The baby was born with serious health problems, causing him to need a ventilator and feeding tube, and requiring hospitalization for his first year of his life. The child was eventually allowed to move home, but still required 24 hour care and continued to be fed through a feeding tube. The baby also continued to suffer from seizure disorder until it died around the time of his second birthday. The death was blamed on complications from his premature delivery and birth.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • Does a residential facility which is licensed through Community Care Licensing authorized under Title 22 have an obligation to provide a safe environment for its staff, as well as an obligation to warn its staff of the serious and violent behaviors and tendencies of the residents?

Expert Witness Response E-007040

The plaintiff absolutely should have been kept safe. I have run homes like the one described in this case and it is necessary to always consider the safety of your employees. The entire staff should always be kept fully aware of the potential risks posed by possibly unstable residents, especially if any of the residents has a history of violent behavior.

This expert has been an administrator, director, and vice president in the social services sector for more than 30 years. The expert has helped more than 10,000 young people achieve permanency and is an internationally recognized child services expert. He played an integral part in the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, and his strategy booklet is given to all children who enter foster care. He has appeared before the Senate as an expert witness twice and his work has been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes” multiple times.

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