Mental health patient who injured himself during escape sues facility

Jon Campisi Jul. 18, 2011, 4:26pm

Attorneys for a man who managed to twice escape behavioral health agents during a hearing into his mental health status are suing the health system at which he was being evaluated.

Newtown, Pa. lawyer James J. Hollawell filed the personal injury lawsuit July 15 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Newportville, Pa. resident Kevin D. Karpinski.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Philadelphia-based Fairmount Behavioral Health System, and UHS of Fairmount Inc. and Universal Health Services, Inc., both of King of Prussia, Pa.

According to the complaint, Karpinski came under the care of Fairmount Behavioral Health in mid July 2009 for examination by doctors to determine if he should be involuntarily committed to a state psychiatric institution due to circumstances not specified in the lawsuit.

On July 17, the suit states, Karpinski was restrained with leather ankle straps in order to be transported to a hearing before a mental health review officer to determine his fate.

After the hearing, the lawsuit claims, Karpinski, while still restrained with the ankle straps, was able to “dart out of the front door of the Girard Medical Center and onto the streets of the City of Philadelphia.”

During his escape, Karpinski hopped a fence, sustaining lacerations to his left rib. Also during his escape, Karpinski found a broken glass bottle, which he was able to use to remove his leather ankle straps, the lawsuit states.

Karpinski kept the bottle with him after he freed himself. That same day, the behavioral health workers caught up to Karpinski, tackling him to the ground, the complaint states. Still, Karpinski was able to once again able to break free from the employees, and for the second time, he jumped over a fence, after which he used the bottle, which he still had in his possession, to slice his neck in two areas and his forearm, the lawsuit states.

Eventually, a Philadelphia police officer was able to calmly speak to Karpinski, convincing him to go with her to the hospital, where, upon his release, he was transported to the Belmont Behavioral Health facility in Philadelphia.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence in failing to ensure that its employees were properly trained, so as to prevent incidents such as these from happening.

As a result of the incident, Karpinski sustained serious physical injuries, including contusions, lacerations, permanent scarring to his neck requiring surgical repair, severe depression, suicidal tendencies and anxiety, the lawsuit states.

For each of the three counts listed in the lawsuit, Karpinski demands judgment against the defendants in an amount in excess of $50,000, plus related costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The case number is 110701451.

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