BATON ROUGE — The mother of a 19-year-old who hanged himself in a hospital last year is now suing the Louisiana Department of Health and nine staff members for failing to prevent her son's death.
Darnell Bailey died on April 26, 2016 at a state mental hospital in Jackson. He had been placed on increased watch due to attempting to self-harm, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on April 25 in a Baton Rouge federal court. Bailey's mother alleges he had a history of mental illness and being suicidal.
In the lawsuit, the hospital is accused of doctoring its documented security checks to cover up the staff's negligence.
"Mr. Bailey was able to plan, test and complete his suicide in a secured unit in a mental health hospital," the suit reads. "He was able to do so because [hospital staff members] failed to take adequate steps to ensure Mr. Bailey received basic supervision."
Bailey's death "could have been prevented with appropriate patient monitoring and supervision," according to the suit.
"Everything in this case will really come down to a review of the hospital's policies and procedures, and what actions the hospital documented and actually took in preventing this suicide," Peter Russell, a Gretna-based attorney and former police officer, told the Louisiana Record.
The lawsuit, which is being overseen by U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.
"This is an issue of medical malpractice, which is capped at $500,000 in Louisiana," Russell said. "In order to get passed that cap, the [plaintiff] is going to have to prove gross negligence on the hospital's part, and that's where the first fight will happen."
Elizabeth Cumming, a New Orleans-based attorney, will be representing Bailey's mother.
"We hope that tragedies like this in the future can be prevented with lessons learned from Mr. Bailey's case," Cumming told the Louisiana Record.
Bailey was committed to the metal hospital in Dec. 2015 under the judge's orders after he was deemed incompetent to stand trial. He was charged with several crimes, including second-degree attempted murder, burglary and robbery after allegedly breaking into a Seventh Ward home on May 24, 2015 and stabbing two people.