Girl’s Mother Sues Hospital By David Worby on May 04, 2004

St. Vincents faces 2nd suit over sex attacks on patients

sue hospitalWHITE PLAINS—The mother of a developmentally disabled teen yesterday sued a psychiatric hospital in Harrison where her daughter was sexually assaulted last year, marking the second lawsuit filed since November over a sex attack there.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified money damages from St. Vincents Hospital of Westchester, based on allegations it failed to protect the girl, then 15, from fellow patients who abused her.

A developmentally disabled 18-year-old woman faces felony sex charges in the incident, which authorities said took place Aug. 15.

The victim’s mother was not available for comment, but the victim’s father said he hoped the lawsuit would force the closure of St. Vincents, a 133-bed hospital owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and the Sisters of Charity of New York.

“We’re doing this to prevent something like this from ever happening again,” the father said. “We need to make the public aware…of the horrendous things that are happening inside the walls of St. Vincents.”

The Journal News granted the father’s request for anonymity based on a policy against identifying the victims of sex crimes without consent. The lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court in White Plains.

St. Vincents spokesman Todd Brooks said the hospital had not yet seen the lawsuit, and he declined to address its claims.

But Brooks said St. Vincents was cooperating with investigations by various regulatory agencies, including the state Office of Mental Health and the state Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled.

“Throughout this process we’ve participated fully in every single investigation,” Brooks said. “We have at no time concealed anything. We’ve made ourselves and any relevant staff available to these various bodies and we will continue to do so.”

Attorney David Worby, whose firm is representing the victim’s family, said yesterday’s lawsuit would seek a “huge” amount of damages, and he accused St. Vincents of “almost wanton” disregard for the girl’s safety.

Worby also said the lawsuit was the second his firm had filed over sex attacks inside St. Vincents since November.

The other case, which remains pending, involves the May 23, 2001, sodomy of a 15-year-old boy by a fellow patient as part of a purported initiation into the Bloods street gang. The perpetrator in that incident, Sammy Serrrano, now 20, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to various sex crimes.

“St. Vincents Hospital…is letting children who are coming there to get help, get raped.” Worby said. “This hospital should not be doing business, if this is what they’re doing.”

Brooks, in response, said that “patient safety is our No. 1 priority, and we make every effort to make sure patients are properly supervised and cared for when they are here.”

According to a felony complaint filed in March, the victim in the August attack was violently molested by two roommates.One, 18-year-old Wanda Green of Yonkers, was arrested on second-degree aggravated sexual abuse, among other charges. Worby said evidence against Green would be presented to a grand jury on Thursday. A spokesman for Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro would say only that the case remained pending and that Green, who is free on bail, was due in Harrison court on June 4.

The felony complaint said an unidentified juvenile also took part in the attack, A spokesman for the County Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes juvenile delinquency cases, said no charges had yet been filed. 

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