SCHENECTADY – A former nursing student who says she has suffered psychological trauma after being stabbed in the neck twice by a scissor wielding patient at Ellis Hospital in February 2020 is suing the hospital and its security service over the incident.
Cassidy Taranto’s lawyer, David Iverson of E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy, filed the lawsuit Thursday in state Supreme Court alleging Ellis Hospital and its security service acted negligently when it allowed a violent patient to be placed in an area of the hospital with no security.
Ian U. Castaldo was arraigned on a felony weapons charge and multiple second-degree assault counts, following an indictment by a grand jury, which had been delayed due to the pandemic.
Taranto said in the lawsuit that on Feb. 27, 2020, Castaldo came to the hospital’s emergency room seeking treatment. Castaldo was deemed to have psychological concerns after staff realized he had been to the emergency room on multiple prior occasions and acted violently, according to court documents. During the visit Castaldo was tied down because of his “propensities for violence and erratic behaviors,” court documents state.
Taranto said that although the hospital had units and other floors with a higher security presence, Castaldo was placed in the neuroscience intensive unit, which didn’t have any additional security.
Taranto said although the hospital knew of Castaldo’s past behavior no security was provided.
After being transferred to the neuroscience intensive care unit, Taranto alleges, Castaldo attacked a technician with his bare hands.
“Plaintiff and other nurses on the unit floor rushed over to assess the scene, at this point Ellis Hospital neglected to call a ‘code gray,’” court documents state.
A “code gray” indicates a need for security.
After attacking the technician Taranto alleges Castaldo got a hold of scissors and repeatedly stabbed a nurse, then stabbed a second nurse in the back and then stabbed Taranto in the neck.
Iverson said Taranto was stabbed twice in the neck, just millimeters away from a major artery and now has scars from the stabbing.
Court documents said that no “code gray” was called even after Castaldo had stabbed people.
“Plaintiff was instructed to walk herself down to the Emergency Department floor where she witnessed security leisurely walking the hallway with the ‘code gray’ being called for the first time over the speaker system, a substantial period of time after Castaldo initially assaulted the tech and thereafter stabbed the nurses,” court documents state.
Iverson said that while Taranto still graduated from Sage College with a nursing degree, she is unable to work in a hospital, limiting her economic future.
Taranto is seeking damages related to the incident. Iverson could not comment on the amount of those damages.
Since the incident occurred very little has changed with security at Ellis, said Fred Durocher, a registered nurse at Ellis Hospital and member of the hospital’s executive committee for the New York State Nurses Association.
He said security has done more rounds in some units but no significant changes in security have been made.
“They haven’t increased staff,” Durocher said.
The violent attacks haven’t stopped either.
Kristi Barnes, a spokeswoman for the New York State Nurses Association, said there were three “code grays” called Thursday before 2 p.m. in three areas of the hospital. She did not indicate the severity of the incidents.
Durocher said dozens of incidents happen every month with some being more minor than others.
Both Barnes and Durocher said requests have been made to change security policies and how the facility is set up to try and limit violent situations, but Ellis has not made any of the recommended changes.
Barnes and Durocher also pointed to staffing issues in general as part of the problem.
Ellis did not comment on the lawsuit.
“As a general rule, we at Ellis Medicine do not discuss specific pending litigation in the press,” said Philip Schwartz, the senior director for marketing and communications for the hospital.