A Meadville, Pennsylvania man is suing police in a case of mistaken identity according to WPXI. 63-year-old Eugene Wright of Meadville is claiming that police was after the wrong Mr. Wright after being handcuffed and taken to Meadville Medical Center. Once there, Wright was forced by hospital staff to ingest several antipsychotic meds against his will for allegedly making threats to harm others and himself.
Surely Wright was able to prove to authorities that he was not the man they were after.
Unfortunately that was not the case. Although Wright had the capacity and proof needed to confirm his identity, according to the lawsuit filed, police refused to check his identity. Hospital staff chose to ignore the standard practice of confirming the identity of a patient and doped Wright up on the assumption that he was the man they were looking for.
Wright’s lawsuit is alleging false imprisonment, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, civil rights violation, invasion of privacy and a loss of consortium with his wife, Carolyn. His wife joined in the filing of the suit against the hospital, police and mental health agency for the loss of consortium.
According to the suit, another man by the name of Eugene Wright was at an orthopedic physician’s office around 10 a.m. June 15, 2017, and made threats to hurt himself and others. On June 15, 2017, at about 1:45 p.m., Wright was walking outside his home to his vehicle, when he saw two Meadville Police Department officers and Robin Dowling, executive director of Stairways Behavioral Health, standing beside his vehicle.
One of the officers then told Wright of the office incident. Wright said they were mistaken because he had been working his job as a customer service representative at Advance Auto Parts of Meadville at the time of the office incident. Rather than confirm his alibi through his employer, police handcuffed Wright and placed him in the patrol vehicle. Wright asked that police call his employer but they refused to practice due diligence.
Wright then asked if he could pull out his identification to prove his identity but police officers already had it set in their minds that he was the one they were looking for. The officers chose not to entertain the idea that they could be wrong even after Wright offered to provide his Social Security card.
After arriving at the hospital, the hospital staff didn’t check Wright’s identification even though Wright previously was a patient at Meadville Medical Center. The hospital had medical records with Wright’s correct identification information, according to the suit.
Wright claims that a doctor ordered he be injected with a chemical sedation of intramuscular Haldol and Ativan. Haldol is an anti-psychotic medication, and Ativan is benzodiazepam used to treat anxiety disorders. Wright told the nurse he didn’t want to be injected with drugs and repeatedly said they had the wrong person. One of the police officers then told Wright if he didn’t agree to receive the shots, officers would hold Wright down so the nurse could inject him.
Wright didn’t want to be held down by police but was given no choice in the matter, so he eventually permitted the nurse to administer him the two shots, the suit states. The drugs Wright was given were against his will and ordered for the specifications of the wrong individual, the suit claims.
After that, according to the suit, “things were starting to get pretty fuzzy” for Wright.
Hospital staff, police and Dowling later learned they had mistaken Wright’s identity because there was another individual named Eugene Wright, the suit claims. The mistake was discovered when emergency room personnel checked into the Wright’s identification after Wright’s daughter arrived at the hospital stating her father had been at work earlier in the day, the suit claims.
“The hospital ER staff researched the issue further and found that there was indeed a second patient who was also named Eugene Wright who was at the orthopedic doctor’s officer earlier that day and made threats to hurt himself and other people,” the suit says.
“The ER staff found that when the orthopedic doctor’s office called the crisis center, the supervisor from the crisis center did not ask for the patient Eugene Wright’s birthday, so they made an incorrect assumption that the patient who was making threats was Plaintiff Mr. Wright,” the suit says.
One of the police officers admitted to Wright’s daughter it was assumed that they had the correct Eugene Wright once he heard the name and did not verify the address with the orthopedic doctor’s office, which had the correct patient’s address and identification information, the suit says.
The officer apologized to Wright’s daughter and left, according to the suit.
The suit says the hospital later apologized to Wright and gave him a $50 gift card for Montana’s Rib and Chop House. The suit says the following day Stairways Behavioral representatives went to Wright’s home to apologize and give Wright a $25 Wal-Mart gift card.
The Wrights are represented by attorneys Al Lindsay and Jessica Tully of Butler.
Representatives of Meadville Medical Center, the City of Meadville and Stairways Behavioral Health all declined comment on the suit when contacted by the Tribune.
“Meadville Medical Center is aware of Mr. Wright’s case,” said Jackie Lesher, spokeswoman for the hospital. “Out of respect for all parties involved we cannot comment at this time.”
The city had been notified about the possibility of a lawsuit being filed in a letter dated Nov. 30, 2017, from the Lindsay Law Firm, said Andy Walker, Meadville’s city manager.
Walker said he would not comment on the suit and was not aware that it formally was filed.
Dowling said Stairways Behavioral Health had not been served with notice of a lawsuit and would not comment on the suit as a matter of the agency’s policy.
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