On February 8, Mario Malena checked into a public hospital in Harlem, explaining to staff that he had been hearing voices that told him to jump in front of a train. A few weeks later, he was discharged from another public hospital, in the Bronx.
On the same day Malena walked out of that facility, he was hit by a subway train. He would die from the injuries.
His family claims that the city’s public hospital system failed Molina and should be held accountable. And on Wednesday, his daughter, Maryanne Malena, filed paperwork seeking to sue the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, the body that oversees public healthcare in the five boroughs.
According to the complaint, filed in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, Mariano Malena had “a long history of alcoholism and psychological disorders, such as bipolar disorder, manic depression and schizophrenia.”
He’d been receiving treatment and medications from various public hospitals, including Harlem Hospital. And on February 8, that’s where he went. His complaint to health officials there, the suit states, was that he “was hearing voices telling him to throw himself in front of a train.”
He stayed at Harlem for 12 days before being discharged. “Thereafter”–though the complaint does not specify when–Malena checked into Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. The hospital discharged him on March 1.
Later that day, Malena waited for a train at the 145th Street subway station. There, “he sat on the ledge of the subway platform with his legs dangling onto the subway tracks,” said the court documents.
The 1 train hit him. He hung on to life for 11 more days before succumbing to organ failure.
From the start, Malena’s family sought to find out who was liable for their loved one’s death. Initially, Malena’s daughter and attorney Tod Groman explored the possibility of suing the city’s transit authority, investigating whether the subway operator as at all negligent.
But in June, after Maryanne Malena obtained her father’s discharge paperwork from Harlem, the legal claim’s focus shifted to the hospital. Because it was in that paperwork that she learned that Malena had told hospital staff that he was seeking treatment because voices were telling him to jump in front of a train. Meanwhile, the court documents do not mention why Malena checked into Jacobi. So, with records showing that the man with a history of schizophrenia told a hospital that he might jump in front of a train weeks before he followed through on it, the family targeted Harlem for the suit, which seeks damages.
“We determined that a claim could be asserted against Harlem for [Malena’s] injuries premised on the allegation that it prematurely released [Malena] from its care while he was a danger to himself,” the suit stated.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 19, 2013