Thursday, August 29, 2013

Greystone Hospital pays $425,000 to settle patient's claim that she was violently assaulted by another patient.

On July 16, 2013, the State of New Jersey, on behalf of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, agreed to pay $425,000 to a Lake Hopatcong woman who claimed that she was brutally assaulted during her involuntary commitment there.

In her suit, Desiree Torusio, who was formerly known as Desiree Lines, said that on December 18, 2008, a court declared her a danger to herself and others and committed her to Greystone.  She alleges that in January 2009, she was placed in a a unit with Horace White, who had a "history of violent criminal activity, including armed robbery, aggravated assault of a police officer, and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes." 

According to the suit, White was a Krol patient, i.e. one who was acquitted of criminal offenses by reason of insanity and deemed a danger to themselves or others.  His propensity toward violence was allegedly well known to Greystone's staff and Torusio claimed that White, who is African-American, used to walk up and down the hallway screaming that he was "going to kill all white people" and that "all white women are bitches who should be raped and killed." 

Prior to the assault, Torusio claimed that she told hospital staff that she was afraid of White and that she and fellow patients submitted a petition seeking to have White transferred. Despite these efforts, hospital staff allegedly told Torusio to "stay away from White" but they did put White under closer supervision.

On February 5, 2009, White was supposed to be under "one-to-one arm's length monitoring" by staff member Linda Wright who, according to the suit, had previously been suspended for five days without pay "for abandoning a one-to-one monitoring assignment in 2008."  Wright allegedly left White unmonitored in the cafeteria while she took a personal call on her cell phone.  During Wright's absence, White, who is 100 pounds heavier and foot taller than Torusio, allegedly started an incident with her that resulted in him punching her in the face and head "causing multiple fractures and other severe damage to the right side of her face and to her right eye."  Torusio claimed that she was hospitalized for four days and underwent a six hours trauma surgery.

After her release from the hospital, Torusio said that she was, over her objections, placed back in the same unit as White.  There, she was allegedly taunted and harassed by the other patients and White reportedly threatened "Keep it up and I'll get the other eye."  She claimed that her injuries caused her to undergo four reconstructive and rehabilitative surgeries on her eye and face.

Linda Wright was named in the suit along with Greystone Executive Officer Janet Monroe, Clinical Psychologist Denise Paulson and Olufunmila Ojediran, the Section Chief who directly supervised Wright.

The case is captioned Torusio v. Monroe, et al, Federal Case No. 2:11-cv-00452 and Torusio's attorneys were Paul G. Hunczak, Todd M. Hooker and Douglas C. Gray of Newton.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Torusio's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $425,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Greystone or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Greystone or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Torusio $425,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.