Facility for Psychiatric Patients
A patient was being evaluated in a locked psychiatric facility. This patient had a history of past psychiatric problems, and he was considered mentally unstable. Even though he was in a locked facility, the patient was able to move around freely on the floor he was being kept in. In one of his previous psychiatric episodes, the patient had eaten domino tiles.
The patient’s medical records showed the endoscopy that was done, and the report showed photos of the tiles in his stomach. Fortunately, the doctors were able to remove these tiles surgically before they did any damage. Additionally, the patient’s history revealed that he had eaten coins and marbles as well in the past. He was obviously confused on what real food is supposed to look or smell like!
Carelessness of a Staff Member
When the patient was in this facility, one of the staff members inadvertently left the utility closet unlocked. This closet had Drano, which is an acid and something used to clean drains. The patient saw this bottle, thought it was worthy of drinking, and gulped down its contents. This patient suffered severe burns in his mouth, in his esophagus as the liquid passed down his throat, and burns to his stomach. This person was rushed to the ER where he had to undergo multiple surgeries since he had sustained severe burns to his entire digestive system.
It was disappointing that a staff member in such a facility had failed to lock the utility closet. No forethought on the part of the staff member who had inadvertently left that utility closet open, and never realizing that these household cleaners would ever be used by these psychiatric patients to harm themselves. However, that was exactly what happened and this patient suffered significant injuries.
But mistakes do happen and if someone wants to do something ridiculous how can anyone know about that?
Facility Held Liable for the Injuries Suffered by the Patient
But the facility was put on notice for having violated the basic standards of care when its staff member was careless and did not lock the utility closet. When there are psychiatric patients, it is expected that they will behave in an irrational and illogical manner, and therefore it is the duty of facility to keep them from harm’s way. The facility has to take all the precautions necessary to keep inmates safe, and this would include locking and keeping dangerous items out of their reach.
In this instance, the utility closet had a lock, but the staff member did not think it was important to lock it, or was careless enough to forget that this cabinet had to be locked. In either case, the staff member can be held liable, and since the facility is responsible for the acts of its staff the lawsuit would be filed against the facility as well.
If the staff member had locked the closet, this patient would not have access to the Drano, and he would not have been able to drink it, even if he wanted to. However, here this cleaning liquid was easily accessible and patient suffered severe and significant injuries after drinking it. Even though no normal person would drink Drano, here the patient was one with psychiatric issues and he should have been prevented from having access to dangerous substances such as this.