Marie Sweeney, a former psychiatric nurse at Franklin general Hospital in Valley Stream, NY has been awarded $5 million in civil damages against Donte Oakes, a former psychiatric patient who beat her, fracturing bones in her face, rupturing a vertebrae disk and leaving her blind in one eye and disabled.
According to reports, Oakes interrupted a group-therapy session being conducted by Sweeney at the hospital in September 2010, and beat her repeatedly with the leg of a chair.
“I lost my career,” stated Sweeney, who admitted to living with daily and emotional pain from the attack. “I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other nurses or healthcare workers.”
Sweeney has also filed suit against the hospital and its North-Shore Long Island Jewish Health System for failing to protect its employees against violent patients, noting that Oakes had attacked other hospital workers three times in the two weeks prior to her attack. Her lawyer, Carol Schlitt of Huntington also noted that OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) had cited Franklin General for exposing workers to violent patients in 2011 after investigating Sweeney’s case. At the time, the agency suggested that violent tendencies be flagged on patients’ charts and that security measures, including alarms, be readily available.
In responding to the lawsuit, Franklin Hospital spokesman Terry Lynam noted that OSHA’s recommendations have been put into practice, and stated, “We continue to be sympathetic to Marie’s plight. Because of the unpredictability of their behavior, working with psychiatric patients can be hazardous, but the hospital and the health system believe that all reasonable steps have been taken to safeguard employees.”
Donte Oakes, who never apologized for the assault, or responded to summonses to the civil suit is currently serving an 11-year sentence in upstate New York for the attack.