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Jury: Hospital not liable in death of man in law enforcement custody

A Baltimore jury found the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center was not at fault in the death of a man who jumped from a fifth-floor hospital window in 2015 while in the custody of the Baltimore County Department of Corrections.

Maurice Nieves, 31, was brought to the hospital on Aug. 18, 2015, after he had been taken into custody by Baltimore County police and made comments indicating he was having suicidal ideas, according to the complaint, which was filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Nieves was released from the hospital and sent back to jail with the understanding that he should be watched for suicidal actions, but he returned to the hospital two days later after he lost consciousness and hit his head in his cell.

According to the complaint, two correctional officers were in Nieves’ hospital room when he was released from his restraints to use a bedside toilet, which was behind a privacy screen. A nurse who then entered the room saw Nieves up on a windowsill banging on the window; she and the two officers were unable to pull him down before he broke the window and fell, the complaint said.

Nieves’ estate and minor child sued the hospital for medical malpractice, claiming hospital staff were negligent in not preventing his death.

After 13 days of trial, jurors deliberated for approximately three hours on Sept. 24 before finding no liability on the part of the hospital.

Attorney Thomas Morrow, who represented St. Joseph Medical Center, said the hospital argued that the correctional officers were responsible for securing Nieves and filed a third-party complaint against the Baltimore County Department of Corrections.

“There’s a pretty strong logical argument that if you’ve got two correctional officers plus the guy’s supposed to be (restrained), you’re not really relying on the hospital for security,” Morrow said.

The county conceded that the correctional officers had been negligent, according to Morrow, of Shaw & Morrow P.A. in Hunt Valley. The plaintiffs did not sue any county defendants.

“University of Maryland dedicates its mission to serving the people of Baltimore city and Baltimore County and Maryland and of course they regret any time a patient meets an unfortunate outcome, but the fact of the matter is they feel very strongly that when there was no medical negligence involved and all of their employees did everything they were supposed to do to the highest degree, they are gratified that the jury recognized that,” he said.

The plaintiffs were represented by Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore. William H. Murphy Jr. did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. No appeal of the verdict was noted as of Wednesday afternoon, according to electronic court records.

Samantha Washington et al. v. University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center

Court: Baltimore City Circuit

Case No.: 24-C-16-006488

Judge: Jeffrey M. Geller

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for defendant

Dates:

Incident: Aug. 20, 2015

Suit filed: Dec. 1, 2016

Verdict:

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: William H. Murphy Jr. of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore

Defendants’ Attorneys: Ronald Shaw and Thomas Morrow of Shaw & Morrow in Hunt Valley

Counts: Medical malpractice


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