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Wednesday, December 19,2012

Abused mental hospital patient awarded $150,000 in damages

By Jim Phillips

After a brief bench trial Monday, a local judge awarded $150,000 in damages to a woman who was sexually exploited by a male nurse while she was a patient in the Appalachian Behavioral Health Center in Athens.

The woman filed suit in Athens County Common Pleas Court last December, asking for $2 million in damages. In the suit, she claimed that Ryan E. Blaine, a former employee of the ABHC, had inappropriate sexual contact with her in early 2011 when she was a patient there.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol investigated the woman's allegations, and Blaine eventually pleaded guilty to attempted patient abuse, a fifth-degree felony. He had to give up his nursing certificate, and was placed on three years' probation.

The suit also alleged that staff at the mental hospital had ignored the woman's complaints about Blaine's behavior, and had "drugged (her) and subjected her to isolation, telling her that she fabricated the… events of which she complained."

In June, the victim asked Judge Michael Ward to grant her partial summary judgment in the case, noting that Blaine had failed to answer a set of interrogatory questions submitted by the plaintiff. This meant that the court could accept as undisputed facts a number of claims, including that the woman had been a patient under Blaine's care, and that he had engaged in improper sexual conduct with her.

In September, Ward granted the motion, essentially saying that Blaine was liable, and all that remained was to assess damages.

On Monday, Ward heard testimony from the victim's father, who said his daughter suffers from serious mental illness and has made repeated suicide attempts.

Though ABH offers a specialized kind of treatment she needs on an in-patient basis, he said, after her experience there she will not go back there.

The family has found a facility in Georgia that offers the treatment on an in-patient basis, but it will cost $93,000, the man testified – which the family can't afford, and which isn't covered by medical insurance.

"If I'd have had the $93,000, she would have been there," he said.

Attorney Martin S. Delahunty III, representing the woman, told Ward that Blaine used his position at ABH to review the woman's file, determined from her record that she would be "an easy target… and he preyed on her."

In one instance, he alleged, Blaine was engaged in sexual contact with the woman when another staffer walked in the room, "walked out, and didn't report anything."

Because of Blaine's admitted actions, Delahunty said, "she suffered; the family suffered."

He asked Ward to award the woman $150,000 -- $93,000 to pay for treatment, $2,000 for airfare to the new hospital, and $55,000 for the "emotional distress of being raped." Ward granted the request.


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