Issues and Trends in Health Care Security Litigation


A review of recent cases highlights the types of deficiencies in HCF security programs that have been used as the basis for a negligent security lawsuit. By learning about these common deficiencies in advance, HCFs can better develop security programs to avoid the mistakes made by others.

Excessive Use of Force

A lawsuit resulted in a million-dollar jury verdict against an Alabama hospital and one of its security guards in 2013. The plaintiff, a hospital visitor, sued the hospital and one of its security guards for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. In that case, an altercation between visitor and a security guard was caught on hospital security video. In the video, the visitor and her husband approached a security desk manned by the defendant security officer, and after a verbal confrontation, the visitor is led away in handcuffs. While there was no audio, the visitor appeared to remain calm while the security officer showed agitation.7

Conscious Disregard for Safety

In 2013, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the security provider of a hospital in North Carolina, alleging conscious disregard for safety. The complaint was filed by the family of a patient who died while being transported from the hospital to his home. According to the lawsuit, the patient suffered from non-Hodgkin lymphoma and was being treated at the hospital for recurrent pneumonia. After a week, the hospital staff considered the patient stable enough for discharge despite his protests that he didn’t want to go home. A nurse called security after the patient became “uncooperative.” Despite his condition, the security employees strapped the patient in the van, and he subsequently died in the van on the way home. The family claimed that the security workers should have known that the patient, described as “unresponsive” and “slumped in his wheelchair” was in no condition to be discharged from the hospital, and in fact needed medical care.8

Inadequate Security Procedures

A 2017 lawsuit was filed against an Atlanta area psychiatric hospital, claiming the hospital failed to provide adequate security and supervision after a teenage girl was raped in the bathroom by another patient. The complaint alleged that the hospital had a history of failing to have adequate staff and had been cited by the federal government for violations. The lawsuit sought damages including lost wages and medical care.

Also, in 2017, lawsuits were filed by four nurses harmed after a jail inmate who was a patient at an Illinois hospital took a gun away from a correctional officer who was guarding him and took two nurses hostage. The lawsuits named the sheriff’s office, the correctional officer, and the hospital’s security company as defendants. A second lawsuit making similar claims was filed by a patient of the hospital who was in a room down the hall from the inmate during the hostage incident.9

The inmate was a known career felon on suicide watch with a history of combative and deceptive behavior, who had tried to harm himself twice to get out of jail. The complaint alleged a pattern of unshackling the inmate to use the restroom, and guards distracted by cellphones and TV. During the incident, a county correctional officer had again unshackled the inmate to use the bathroom, then failed to place him back in restraints. After the inmate obtained the officer’s 9mm handgun, the officer ran down the hall and hid in another hospital room. One of the nurses was beaten, tortured and raped by the inmate during the 3-hour ordeal. The inmate was ultimately shot dead by a SWAT team.10

The complaints alleged that the defendants failed in their duty to protect the hospital employees from a dangerous jail inmate. The plaintiffs claimed that the corrections officer had violated his employer’s policy by failing to notify or protect others inside the hospital. The suit also claimed that the hospital and the security company violated their duties by failing to ensure proper procedures were followed and a security plan was in place for the inmate, and for not properly warning patients that an inmate had escaped and was armed.11

False Imprisonment

In 2018, a lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages was filed alleging that a special needs teen being held at the hospital for psychiatric evaluation was beaten by security guards when he wanted to leave the facility after three days of confinement. The lawsuit cites eight causes of action, including false imprisonment and malicious detainment beyond the legal 72 hours, battery, and causing serious and permanent injuries. The lawsuit was filed against the hospital, the security company, unnamed security guards, the hospital’s medical-dental staff, the treating physician, and the hospital’s foundation.12

(7) Specker, Lawrence, “Alabama Supreme Court upholds million-dollar verdict against Mobile Infirmary,” Alabama Media Group, May 23, 2017,

(8) DeVane, Steve, “Hospital Security Firm Named in Wrongful Death Suit,” The Fayetteville Observer, December 18, 2013,

(9) Leone, Hannah, “Lawsuit: Hostage Situation at Delnor Hospital gave Patient PTSD,” Aurora Beacon- News, August 24, 2017, patient-sues-delnor-kane-county-st-0824-20170824-story.html

(10) Esposito, Stefano, “Nurse Raped During Hostage Ordeal at Geneva Hospital, Lawsuit Says” Chicago Sun Times, May 25, 2017,

(11) Esposito, Stefano, “Nurse Raped During Hostage Ordeal at Geneva Hospital, Lawsuit Says” Chicago Sun Times, May 25, 2017.

(12)  Lieberman, Steve, “Special needs teenager beaten by Nyack Hospital security officers: lawsuit,” January 12, 2018., USA Today,