Lawsuits filed against state in alleged hospital abuse

By Daniel Tepfer
Thursday, March 1, 2018

BRIDGEPORT - The brother of a Greenwich man, who was allegedly abused for months while a patient at a state psychiatric hospital, filed state and federal lawsuits Thursday against the state and his alleged abusers.

Ten employees of the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown were recently arrested after surveillance video showed them hitting, kicking and pushing William Shehadi Jr. out of bed, according to court documents. At one point a male nurse is seen gyrating his groin on Shehadi's face, and other workers are shown on the video dousing Shehadi with liquids, throwing food at him, and forcing him to wear a diaper on his head.

"The relentless abuse inflicted by state employees on a helpless, mentally ill man day after day for weeks and weeks shows a level of cruelty that is sickening in the extreme," said Shehadi's lawyer, Antonio Ponvert III of the firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder during a press conference on Thursday.

While the lawsuits, filed in Superior Court and U.S. District Court here, don't claim any specific monetary damages Ponvert said, "We hope the state's decision makers do what is right."

Shehadi, 58, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1995 for the death of his father and committed to the psychiatric hospital.

Both lawsuits were filed on behalf of Shehadi's brother, Albert Shehadi.

The state lawsuit names the State of Connecticut, State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), as well as the Commissioner of DMHAS and eleven Whiting administrators and supervisory level employees as defendants. It claims violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Patients' Bill of Rights, and seeks money damages and injunctive relief.

The second federal lawsuit, is against the Whiting forensic nurses and treatment specialists who allegedly did the abuse. That suit alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Patients' Bill of Rights, and also asserts claims for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"The fact that dozens of Bill's nurses and caregivers felt free to perpetrate this brutality while being filmed can only mean that the entire system at Whiting was broken," Ponvert said. "There was a complete absence of accountability, discipline, care, compassion and leadership. There was negligence at every level of the agency and in the entire chain of command at Whiting."

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