SPOKANE COUNTY, WA - It was nearly one year ago, when Eastern State Hospital patient Duane Charley was found beaten and strangled to death inside the hospital.
Now, lawyers for the estate of Duane Charley has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Eastern State Hospital. The family of Charley filed the lawsuit on Friday.
The family says the Joint Commission on Accreditation warned the hospital in 2006 and 2009 about policies and practices involving patient safety.
Charley was attacked in his room for several minutes by another patient, Amber Roberts, while staff was stationed on the floor. The family says those same polices didn't change after Charley's death and were only corrected after an unannounced inspection.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary compensation, punitive damages to deter future incidents and attorney's fees.
Roberts was arrested and charged in the murder. She is scheduled for another court appearance in January.
Below is the press release sent to our sister station in Spokane by the lawyers for the Charley estate.
Press Release Sent By The Lawyers For The Duane Charley Estate:
On Friday, November 15, 2013, the Estate of Duane E. Charley filed a lawsuit against Eastern State Hospital ("Eastern"), and the former Director of Eastern, among others, alleging claims for wrongful death and civil rights violations. The lawsuit stems from the highly-publicized murder that occurred at Eastern nearly one year ago. Duane Charley was a patient at Eastern when he was found beaten and strangled to death with a cord in the early morning hours of November 20, 2012, after another patient told staff that she had killed someone.
In the lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, the Estate claims the death was the result of Eastern's deficient policies and practices, among other failures, that allowed patients to freely enter other patients' rooms at all times of the day and night, and that failed to restrict patients' access to cords and other strangulation devices.
The lawsuit claims that the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals had warned Eastern in 2006, and again in 2009, about these issues and advised them to change their practices to better protect their patients. The lawsuit alleges that the perpetrator was allowed to enter Mr. Charley's room with the cord and savagely attack him without detection from hospital staff stationed on the same floor. The attack is alleged to have lasted several minutes before Mr. Charley died.
The lawsuit further alleges that the policies and practices that allowed the murder remained unchanged even after Mr. Charley's 2012 death and were only corrected following an unannounced inspection and a preliminary denial of continued accreditation for Eastern. In particular, the unannounced inspection concluded that the presence of readily-accessible ligature items, such as cords presented an "obvious risk," and "contributed to an unsafe unit where a death occurred in November 2012 by strangulation." The report states that even the leadership of Eastern collectively agreed that the hospital "was not safe."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary compensation, punitive damages to deter future incidents, and attorney's fees. The Estate is represented by Spokane attorneys Kelly E. Konkright and Michael D. Franklin of the law firm Lukins & Annis, P.S. Attorney Mike Franklin stated, "Eastern State Hospital has shown itself unwilling to voluntarily correct the many problems posed by its lax policies towards patient safety and supervision. In fact, it took the near loss of hospital accreditation and millions of state and federal dollars before Eastern would even begin to take measures to remove some of the most obvious risks to patient safety." Attorney Kelly Konkright adds,"We hope the lawsuit results in a careful overview of Eastern's policies and a change in the ‘business as usual' attitude that has plagued the hospital over the last several years."