Puget Sound’s Fairfax Behavioral Health Hit with New Class-Action Lawsuit Alleging Recorded Strip-Search of Teen Patients
Law firm calls local hospital’s actions “egregious and abhorrent”
SEATTLE – Today, Hagens Berman and Disability Rights Washington filed an amended complaint against Puget Sound’s Fairfax Behavioral Health, which operates behavioral health facilities in Kirkland, Everett, and Monroe, Washington, alleging Fairfax illegally strip-searched and video recorded hundreds of adult and teen patients who were receiving treatment.
The proposed class in the lawsuit includes any adult or teen who was subjected to arbitrary strip-searches and invasive video recording as a patient at Fairfax Behavioral Health. If you were strip-searched or feel you may have been video monitored while a patient at Fairfax, contact us to find out your rights »
The amended complaint filed today details two new accounts from anonymous plaintiffs, including the newest account of Plaintiff H.S., who was 14 years old when he was subjected to the hospital’s rights violations, and John Doe, an adult patient who was ordered to fully undress and was strip-searched in front of other patients.
“It seems that Fairfax Behavior Health sought to perform the absolute lowest level of patient care at its Kirkland, Everett and Monroe mental health facilities, and outright disregarded the rights and privacy of our clients," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney leading the case. “Fairfax’s practices stand in blatant opposition to the rights of individuals under their care, period, and we find them to be flagrantly discriminatory.”
“We’re talking hundreds of patients, if not more, subjected to this violation of their basic rights,” Berman added.
The lawsuit states that the hospital placed video cameras in hallways, the holding area outside the bathroom and the room where the strip-searches were conducted.
The Suit’s Latest Allegations
Plaintiff H.S. was voluntarily placed under the care of Fairfax hospital in May of 2017, where a Fairfax staff member grabbed him and escorted him to the teen ward. Although H.S. is blind after being shot in the face as a toddler, the staff member barked at H.S. to not ‘look at anyone,’ and to ‘walk straight!’ H.S. responded by telling Fairfax staff that he is totally blind, according to the suit. H.S. was then instructed to remove all of his clothes, which he refused, stating he was uncomfortable. The Fairfax staff member responded by threatening, “You’re going to or we will do it for you,” the complaint states.
The Fairfax staff member made demands for H.S. to remove his clothes and conducted a full strip-search without documenting the need for an intrusive strip-search, or obtaining a clinical determination that one was necessary from a psychiatric professional. H.S. was not given a gown or towel to cover up during the search. H.S.’s guardians were not informed of the strip search nor were they asked for consent to strip-search their 14-year-old child, according to the lawsuit.
The suit’s new account from plaintiff John Doe details a violating and humiliating strip-search and video recording, after which, “Mr. Doe’s emotional and mental health continued to decline during his stay at Fairfax. He laid in his bed crying for days and was not seen by a psychiatrist until three days after his admission. This decline is directly attributable to the humiliating invasion of privacy and bodily autonomy perpetrated by Fairfax and its staff,” the suit states.
During his arrival at Fairfax, Mr. Doe was forced to wait naked in a holding area outside the bathroom for 20-30 minutes before he was given a gown that he was to wear for his entire stay, which was marked by the hospital’s failure to provide safe, non-abusive treatment with dignity and privacy.
“Fairfax’s practice of arbitrarily conducting strip-and-cavity searches of adult and teen patients suffering from mental illness and use of invasive video monitoring is substantially motivated by discriminatory animus toward people with serious mental health conditions requiring inpatient treatment and restricts those patients from receiving the treatment they present for and are entitled to receive,” the suit states.
The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief restraining Fairfax from recording patients during invasive searches, and restraining Fairfax from strip-searching patients without an individualized assessment that the patient possesses drugs or weapons that constitute an immediate threat to life or safety. The suit also seeks an order requiring Fairfax to create protocols for conducting searches.
Hagens Berman’s case was originally opened Apr. 30, 2019 with a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, case number 19-cv-00635.
Your protection is our top priority. We welcome any information, and those who contact our firm may remain anonymous in their potential case. Attorneys will request that the Court permit our clients to proceed anonymously as a Jane Doe or John Doe. Our attorneys have experience in protecting plaintiffs who wish to remain anonymous, both as whistleblowers and as survivors of discriminatory or sexual misconduct.
Your Rights and Protections
If you were a patient at a Fairfax-operated location and believe your rights were violated, we want to hear from you. Please fill out the form to contact our legal team or call Hagens Berman attorney Shelby Smith at 206-268-9370 or Disability Rights Washington attorney Alexa Polaski at 206-324-1521. Our secure messaging offers a safe space to those speaking out.
Hagens Berman works to protect the rights and safety of survivors of discrimination and injustice everywhere. Let us take a stand for you »
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.
About Disability Rights Washington
Disability Rights Washington is a private non-profit organization that protects the rights of people with disabilities statewide. Our mission is to advance the dignity, equality, and self-determination of people with disabilities. We work to pursue justice on matters related to human and legal rights. More information about the firm can be found at www.disabilityrightswa.org
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