LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A jury awarded $3 million in punitive damages to a man whose son was stabbed to death in 2011 by a fellow psychiatric patient at a Sun Valley Hospital, bringing the plaintiff’s damages to $5.7 million.
Jerry L. Romansky, then 27, of Glendale fatally attacked his roommate, Dean J. Camacho, at the Behavioral Health Unit at Pacifica Hospital of the Valley on June 19, 2011, according to testimony in the Los Angeles Superior Court trial.
Romansky heard voices that commanded him to kill himself and to kill others, said plaintiff Joseph Camacho’s attorney, John Marcin.
Marcin said Dean Camacho, who was 48 at the time, was incompatible with Romansky and that it was too dangerous to place the two in the same room.
Joseph Camacho, 79, of Stockton, sued the hospital for negligence in June 2012. The jury awarded him $2.7 million in compensatory damages and found the medical staff knew of Romansky’s violent tendencies and acted in conscious disregard for Dean Camacho’s safety.
The brief trial phase on punitive damages resulted in the award of $3 million.
An attendant who was supposed to check on Camacho every 165 minutes found him dead in the bathroom after being stabbed numerous times with a weapon made from a metal bracket removed from a toilet fixture, Marcin said.
Dean Camacho was nearly decapitated, Marcin said. The brackets have since been ordered removed from all the bathrooms in the ward but should never have been there, Marcin said.
Marcin said the two were not properly monitored, and the person assigned that night may have been overwhelmed by the number of patients he was supposed to watch.
Marcin’s court papers state that Romansky had a history of mental illness and was on probation at the time for a 2008 stabbing. Also, Romansky was previously hospitalized at Pacifica Hospital in March 2010 after kicking out the window of a police vehicle and trying to choke a patient with a towel, Marcin’s court papers state.
Marcin praised his client, saying he was a self-made businessman who made the long journey from Northern California regularly to visit his son at the hospital before he was killed.
Attorneys for the hospital maintained their client was not responsible for Dean Camacho’s death and that the attack on him was not foreseeable.