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Assaulted By Patient at NY Hospital, Mother's Negligent Supervision Claim Survives


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6/21/2010
Jonathan Cooper
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Sometimes, from the very start of a court opinion, you can sense which way the court is going to decide. And, considering the disturbing facts of Davis v. Brookdale Univ. Hosp. & Med. Ctr., I can't blame the judge for finding the way he did.

In this case, while visiting her daugher at the defendant hospital's pediatric ward, the plaintiff's daughter's roommates became rather rowdy, and began cursing and threatening the plaintiff and her daughter. As the roommates' improper behavior continued and escalated, the plaintiff asked that security remove the other parties from the room. Instead, the hospital's security personnel watched the scene continue to escalate for over 1 hour, and stood by as the roommates assaulted the plaintiff with repeated blows and sharp objects.

For some strange reason, the plaintiff did not commence suit until nearly 3 full years later. In seeking to dismiss the complaint, the hospital contended that since this action arose out of an assault, it should be governed by the one year statute of limitations governing assaults rather than the 3-year statute of limitations for negligent supervision actions, and that the fellow patients' assault was a "spontaneous and unexpected criminal assault that was not foreseeable."

The Brooklyn trial court disagreed. And here's why:

The defendant hospital's own security guard, in his testimony, "[A]dmitted that he did nothing for at least five minutes and allowed the menacing and threatening behavior to continue to escalate without calling for assistance on his two-way radio until after the assault had begun. [H]e further testified that prior to the assault the assailants 'turned on me' and 'they started cursing me, cursing at me' yet he still did nothing."

The Court further held that "In light of the uncontroverted testimony that Bennett and her friends' threatening and menacing behavior attracted the attention of hospital personnel, including a security guard, for as much as an hour prior to the assault, there is an issue of fact as to whether the assault was foreseeable ... because "The criminal intervention of third parties may be a "reasonably foreseeable" consequence of circumstances created by the defendant. Kush v. City of Buffalo, 59 NY2d 26, 33, 462 NYS2d 831, 449 NE2d 725.

That said, I would still be suprised if the defendants don't appeal this decision.

Category: School Negligence / Personal Injury


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