Gormley v. Wood-El, New Jersey Supreme Court, June 30, 2014
Under both New Jersey state and federal law, victims of assaults may have legal rights to pursue the parties responsible for the assaults. This applies in a physical assault case as well as a sexual assault case.
Parties which may be held responsible include both private and public (state/government) entities. For instance, schools, hospitals, community centers, etc., may face liability for allowing an assault to occur. Claims may be made under state or federal law.
Earlier this summer, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided a case involving an assault at a state run psychiatric hospital. The court ultimately decided the case in favor of the injured assault victim.
Related: New Jersey Store & Business Liability for Crimes Committed Against Customers – What You Have to Prove
Background of the Case
The plaintiff in this case was an attorney with a public agency which provided legal services to mentally ill and handicapped individuals for involuntary commitment hearings. She was assigned to patients at a psychiatric hospital facility in New Jersey. She suffered serious injuries when she was beaten by a new client.
At the facility, all attorney-client meetings were held in public access rooms known as day rooms which contained dozens of other patients. Some patients at the specific building were classified as dangers to themselves, others or property. In fact, Gormley’s patient had recently been admitted with psychiatric issues including hallucinations and was classified as a risk to herself and others. The client was actually assigned to be under continuous observation. However, no one told Gormley that her client was classified in this manner.
In her complaint, Gormley alleged that the facility created an increased risk of harm by failing to provide security personnel and/or employees in the day rooms, the only place where attorneys were allowed to meet with their clients.
In addition, the evidence established that over the course of a two year period prior to the plaintiff’s assault, there were almost 4,000 reports of physical assaults in the day rooms; almost 20% of which resulted in serious injuries. Despite these incidents, the facility took no action with respect to making day rooms safer (installing cameras, providing emergency call buttons, etc.). Many attorneys and psychiatrists were assaulted in the day rooms prior to the assault on Gormley.
Related: Medical Provider (Hospital) Liability for Sexual Assaults
Main Legal Issue
The main legal in the case was whether the injured victim was allowed to pursue her claim against the state agency. Ultimately, the court held that she had proved that the hospital had a duty to protect her and that it had showed the requisite level of reckless conduct with respect to her personal safety.
Need more legal info about negligent security (assault) cases? Visit our law library.
New Jersey Assault Victims Rights – Legal Help
If you would like to discuss your rights in an assault case, please call our office at Click To Call. Firm founder Brian Kent is a former prosecutor who now helps victims of crime in civil lawsuit cases in New Jersey. The firm has offices in Cherry Hill, Atlantic City and Iselin.
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