In April 2019, attorneys from Hagens Berman and Disability Rights Washington filed a class-action complaint on behalf of a proposed class of hundreds of patients that were arbitrarily strip-searched and/or video recorded while receiving treatment for mental illness at Fairfax psychiatric facilities located in Kirkland, Everett and Monroe, WA.
According to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the suit’s named plaintiff recalls being ordered to undress for an invasive strip-search and cavity search when she presented for inpatient admission, even after disclosing her history of sexual abuse to the staff member. She was not given a gown or towel to cover up during the search, and the staff member watched her undress and left the door open where other staff members could see her, and threatened to restrain her if she did not comply.
Video cameras were located in the hallway, the holding area outside bathroom and the room where the strip search was conducted. The cameras recorded her undressing and the strip-search.
The complaint alleged that Fairfax’s practices—and its failure to limit the discretion of its staff—meant that a substantial number of its mental health patients are harmed instead of receiving adequate inpatient care.
“Fairfax violated their duty of care by performing invasive searches without suspicion and using video cameras throughout the hospital,” said Steve Berman. “Our class-action lawsuit seeks systemic changes to Fairfax’s protocols that will create safer hospitals for patients needing help.”
The plaintiffs sought punitive damages and injunctive relief 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 and restrains Fairfax from recording patients during the search. The plaintiffs also sought an order requiring Fairfax to create protocols for conducting invasive searches that require an individualized assessment of immediate danger to self or others.
This case concluded in November 2021.