United States

Lawsuits to Be Filed Against State Over Allegations of Patient Abuse at Whiting

An attorney for the brother of a man at the center of an investigation into the possible abuse of a patient at Whiting Forensic Division in Middletown is filing two lawsuits and they are against the state and caretakers entrusted to care for the man at the state’s only maximum-security psychiatric hospital. 

One lawsuit names the State of Connecticut, State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, as well as the commissioner of the department and 11 Whiting administrators and supervisory level employees. 

The second lawsuit is against forensic nurses and treatment specialists who are accused of the abuse. 

The lawsuits come after 59-year-old William Shehadi Jr. allegedly suffered abuse over a one-month period, according to an open state police investigation. 

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters broke the story about the abuse allegations nearly a year ago.

We have also obtained letters that show Shehadi complained about his treatment more than a decade before the state's investigation began in early 2017 after a surveillance video from his room was brought to the attention of management.  

The lawsuits allege that the state employees responsible for Shehadi’s treatment and care kicked, hit, and taunted him; pushed him out of bed onto the floor; splashed him with liquid; and blasted him in the face with an aerosol can, according to a statement from the law office that filed the suit. 

Among the allegations are that a male nurse gyrated his groin on Shehadi’s face and staff members forced him to wear a diaper on his head. 

Thirty-seven staffers were put on administrative leave due to the investigation and 13 of them have been terminated, resigned or retired. Ten of the 37 staffers have been arrested. 

The suit filed in Bridgeport Superior Court, which names the State of Connecticut, State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, commissioner and 11 employees, claims violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Patients’ Bill of Rights, and seeks money and injunctive relief. 

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court against the Whiting forensic nurses and treatment specialists alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Patients’ Bill of Rights and claims assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

“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,” attorney Antonio Ponvert III of the Bridgeport-based firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, said in a statement. 

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