Family Sues Washington Hospital Over Man’s Death

January 5, 2015

The family of a Tri-Cities, Wash., man who died after being found bloody and unconscious on the floor of an Eastern State Hospital restroom has filed a lawsuit claiming the hospital is at fault.

Misael Rodriguez, 43, was involuntarily committed for observation in August 2013 and suffered fatal injuries 11 days later, The Spokesman-Review reported. His family filed a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court claiming he was assaulted to by another patient whom the hospital failed to properly supervise.

State officials say the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office investigated the death and made no recommendation about whether criminal charges were warranted.

Officials said medical information indicated Rodriguez died of natural causes, but the family’s lawyers say the cause of death remains unclear.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office would say only that it hasn’t signed the death certificate.

John Wiley, a spokesman for the Department of Social and Health Services, said privacy laws restrict the agency’s ability to discuss details of the case. “The death of a patient was a tragic and unexpected event,” Wiley said. “It is of great concern to the hospital and we have expressed condolences to the family.”

The lawsuit marks the first public disclosure about the 2013 fatal incident and comes just months after the state settled with the family of an Eastern State Hospital patient who was strangled in 2012. The homicide, allegedly committed by a fellow patient who later told staff she’d just killed someone, led to a temporary loss of accreditation and a management shake-up at the psychiatric institution.

The new suit claims the hospital did not properly supervise a patient who was described as requiring constant line-of-sight monitoring. Both men had been involuntarily committed.

It’s unclear why Rodriguez, whose obituary indicated he’d worked as a security guard, had been sent to Eastern State.

The lawsuit said he was followed into the restroom by a patient who had been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial on unspecified charges in Yakima. Staff later found Rodriguez unconscious on the floor near a stall toilet bleeding from a gash on his eyebrow and with a deep bruise to his ear, the newspaper reported.

The victim’s children say if Eastern State had followed its procedures their father would still be alive.

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