The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Thursday settled with a developmentally disabled woman who was raped while being treated at Eastern State Hospital.
The 29-year-old patient, who was sexually assaulted by another patient four years ago, will receive $3 million from the state, court records show.
The patient initially sought more than $20 million in damages for negligence and violation of her civil rights, according to a DSHS news release. By resolving the matter in a settlement, both parties likely avoided a lengthy federal trial, which was scheduled to begin in March.
“The state’s psychiatric hospitals are places of healing and recovery from mental illness,” Director of State Hospitals Jess Jamieson said in the news release. “We try our best to ensure that our vulnerable patients are kept safe from inappropriate sexual and physical assaults.”
In their own press release, the victim’s lawyers said the rapist had “a history of violence and criminal activity” and was allowed to “roam free on hospital grounds immediately prior to the rape.”
“In the months leading up to the rape, the rapist was repeatedly characterized by hospital staff as an imminent risk to patients and staff,” the victim’s lawyers said.
The settlement is the largest amount ever paid as a result of patient abuse at Eastern State Hospital, according to the victim’s lawyers.
Eastern State Hospital has implemented risk assessments for all patients and assigns staff on a one-to-one ratio when a patient is identified as being sexually vulnerable or predatory, the DSHS news release said.
“We regret that the assault happened on one of our patient wards,” Jamieson said.
Officials noted in the release state psychiatric hospitals are similar to general hospitals and patients are not inmates; they do not live in locked cells.
The settlement was approved in U.S. District Court by Judge Edward F. Shea.