On the morning of May 29, 2012, Maria Rodriguez entered a third-floor apartment and jumped out the window. She survived, but was seriously injured.
But, she claims, perhaps it all could have been prevented. Because before she went into the apartment building, Rodriguez had been sitting in an ambulance. Police officers and emergency medical technicians had placed her there after her violent outburst shattered a car’s windows. And, according to a complaint filed last week in New York Supreme Court in the Bronx, Rodriguez thinks the emergency responders should be held accountable for her injuries from the jump.
She has filed suit against the city, the ambulance service, and the police officers for not properly supervising and restraining her. She argues that she was clearly mentally ill and should have been immobilized for her own protection.
The trouble began around 8 a.m., in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, a couple blocks south of the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Rodriguez, according to the complaint, “was acting irrationally and disturbed and appeared to be mentally ill and had engaged in criminal mischief by breaking the windows of a 2001 Ford motor vehicle.”
Police officers Richard Young and Patrick Fallon responded to the call and arrived on the scene. Soon after, an ambulance–operated by Transcare New York, a medical transportation company that contracts with the city–also arrived. It’s unclear whether the officers called for an ambulance because Rodriguez suffered injuries from damaging the car or because they recognized that she might be mentally ill.
The two EMTs and the two officers then took her into the ambulance. At this point, the lawsuit claims, “Rodriguez was negligently and recklessly left alone and unsupervised” and that she “was recklessly permitted to leave the Transcare ambulance by aforesaid emergency medical service technicians and police officers.”
So she walked out of the ambulance, marched to the third floor of a nearby apartment building, and jumped out a window.
The responders erred in “not restraining or immobilizing [Rodriguez] to ensure that she was not capable of hurting herself” and were negligent in “allowing her to leave the ambulance without fully assessing her mental state,” the complaint states. It cites a line in Article 9 of the New York Mental Hygiene laws, which notes the “Powers of Certain Peace Officers and Police Officers to take into custody any persons who appears to be mentally ill and is conducting himself or herself in a manner which is likely to result in serious harm to the person or others.”
The complaint does not list Rodriguez’s specific injuries, only that “she was required to obtain hospital and medical care” and that “she continues to receive treatment for her injuries.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 16, 2013