A federal lawsuit filed by Eugene Wright of Meadville claims authorities got the wrong Mr. Wright when they handcuffed him, took him to Meadville Medical Center where he was drugged against his will for making claims to harm himself and others.
The suit claims it was all done without checking his identity to make sure they had the right Mr. Wright.
Wright, 63, and his wife, Carolyn, filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania against Meadville Medical Center; Meadville Police Department, two officers identified as John Doe and Jack Doe, and Chief Michael Tautin; and Stairways Behavioral Health for the June 15, 2017, incident that began outside Wright's home.
Wright's suit claims 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 Wright has joined Wright in the suit in suing the hospital, police and mental health agency for the loss of consortium.
The suit claims Wright has the same name as a different Eugene Wright who had been at an orthopedic physician's office around 10 a.m. June 15, 2017, and made threats to hurt himself and others.
The suit alleges 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.
The suit claims 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, according to the suit.
Wright asked the police officers and Dowling to call the auto parts store to verify Wright had been at work that morning, but they refused, the suit says.
Wright then was handcuffed, but Wright repeatedly told police they had the wrong person and repeatedly requested he be able to show his identification and Social Security card to prove it, according to the suit.
The suit claims 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.
The suit says a doctor then ordered Wright 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 the wrong person was at the hospital, the suit claims.
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, the suit said.
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.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.