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Patient Escapes from Psychiatric Unit

Jason Aiello was taken by his family to an emergency psychiatric unit at a university hospital. The hospital was under contract with Burns International Security Services to provide guard and patrol services. After Aiello arrived at the check-in desk he was taken to a nearby room and examined by a hospital staffer. Because a bed was not available, Aiello was instructed to go back to the check-in area and wait. Aiello was later brought to a doctor who prescribed antipsychotic medication; however, the medication was not immediately available. Aiello was again instructed to go back to the check-in area.

After a period of waiting, Aiello left the hospital and walked home without receiving the prescribed medication or any other treatment. Aiello, who was a former police officer, had guns stored inside his home. Because he appeared to be in a psychotic condition, the police were called and when they arrived they instructed Aiello to come out of the house and surrender to arrest. Aiello refused and pointed a weapon at a police officer. Aiello was fatally shot by the police.

Aiello’s wife sued the hospital for failing to provide proper treatment. In her suit, she also claimed that the security company had negligently allowed her husband to leave the hospital. The hospital filed a cross-claim against the security company, alleging the company failed to perform a service as stipulated in the security services contract. The security company filed a motion for summary judgment by showing that the contract contained no such stipulation and as a consequence the company did not owe a duty to protect Aiello. The trial court granted the security company’s motion for summary judgment. Mrs. Aiello appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. Additionally, the appellate court held that the duties of the company’s security guards were dictated by the hospital, such as by determining how many guards were to be assigned, where they were to be assigned, the duty hours, and the nature of duties. The hospital had assumed, by its own actions, a primary responsibility for guard performance.

The case remains partially undecided as to the hospital’s liability to Mrs. Aiello.

This case illustrates that parties to a security contact should carefully draft and reach understanding, particularly in respect to matters involving possible exposure to liability.

(Aiello v. Burns International Security Services Corporation, No. 05767, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, September 3, 2013. Source: Security Law Newsletter, published monthly by Strafford Publications, Atlanta, GA.,, 800-926-7926, ext. 10,

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