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A Hospital's Failure to Properly Train a Psychiatric Tech and Maintain Patient Confidentiality Results in the Rape of a Juvenile Patient

Our client, a 14 year old female, was taken to the Emergency Room as a runaway by city police officials. She was found to be combative, hostile, and refused to answer police questioning. Our client was admitted to the adolescent psychiatric unit under the care of a psychiatrist for treatment of severe and recurring depression and suicidal ideas. This young lady was noted to be well known to the hospital staff, as she had been treated by the hospital on multiple other occasions.The hospital staff also had knowledge of her history of running away from her father's home, and that she was extremely depressed and suicidal.

During her stay in the psychiatric unit, our client would express feelings of worthlessness, anger, depression, and not wanting to continue with life. Due to these feelings she would often lash out violently toward hospital staff, other patients, and her parents. Rather than confront these issues, the nursing staff of the adolescent psychiatric unit chose to allow our client to skip group session and remain in her room alone. During these periods of alone time she would often be put in four point restraints in order to keep her from harming herself. A psychiatric tech gained unauthorized access to our client's records and learned of her vulnerabilities and treatments. He gained access to her during her during the restrained periods when she was alone. The psychiatric tech used his knowledge of her history to intimidate and threaten her in the one place that she should have been safest. While our client was in restraints, he would kiss her and expose himself to her; he molested and sexually abused her in her own hospital room. It was the job of the hospital to keep our client safe from harm, and yet it was in this place that our client was horrifically sexually, physically, and emotionally abused.

Our client was in the psychiatric unit for 25 days. During this time the psychiatric tech would also offer inappropriate and harmful counseling that impaired her ability to make progress. After our client was discharged, the psychiatric tech contacted her at home and told her that he had obtained her address and telephone number by reading her confidential medical records. He lured our client to his home where he repeatedly raped her.

The psychiatric tech was improperly trained and supervised for work with patients in the adolescent psychiatric unit, yet the hospital allowed him to gain access to the locked, restricted adolescent recovery area. Moreover, this man was allowed access to our client's confidential medical records, which he was able to use to prey on our client. The nursing staff of the adolescent psychiatric unit repeatedly allowed the psychiatric tech to be with our client unsupervised while she was restrained. They did not question him as to why he was spending time in her room. In order to maintain patient safety, the nursing staff had a duty to maintain the restricted access of the adolescent psychiatric unit. The nursing staff should have questioned the psychiatric tech as to why he needed unauthorized access to our client's room. The nursing staff was not properly conducting the required 15 minute observations of our client.

Our client and her family trusted that she would be cared for by qualified, professional personnel who would evaluate her, formulate written individualized comprehensive treatment plans, and provide safe appropriate care. She expected that the hospital staff would respect her history of past sexual abuse and keep her free from all forms of abuse. The hospital should have been a safe place for our client where she could be helped. Instead, it turned out to be a place where she became physically and emotionally injured through abuse by a psychiatric tech. She now has a profound distrust for the mental health care system as a whole. Todd Townsley was able to achieve a satisfactory settlement for this abused client. The court approved the settlement for this minor child. Her recovery was placed in an interest bearing bank account as well as a structured settlement. Any withdrawals from the account before she turns 18 must be approved by the court.

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