Watch: Patient sues after hospital ‘tackle’
A QUEENSLAND mum whose head split open when she was "tackled" by a security guard as she walked to her car in a hospital carpark has sued the hospital and security company, claiming $786,770 damages for assault and false imprisonment.
Toni Burcher, 53, from Beenleigh, sued Metro South Hospital and Health Service which runs Logan Hospital, security company MSS Security Pty Ltd (MSS) and officers Luke Bailey and Lynda Hadley in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on May 5 alleging she has been left with a psychological injury, a head injury and scarring.
The entire incident was captured on CCTV, which Ms Burcher obtained through Right To Information laws.
In her claim Ms Burcher, who has a mental illness, alleges Mr Bailey "violently assaulted" her by knocking her to the ground as she tried to leave the hospital on May 5, 2017.
While Ms Burcher was lying on the ground Mr Bailey is alleged to have "pushed" her head into the concrete floor and "pulled out tufts" of her hair.
Ms Burcher's husband Robert Cowling, who was walking beside her when she was allegedly "tackled" by Mr Bailey, was also allegedly assaulted by Mr Bailey when he tried to help his wife, the claim states.
Ms Burcher also alleges she was "falsely imprisoned" for six minutes by MSS, Mr Bailey and Mrs Hadley, with the aim of "causing psychological injury".
She needed three staples to repair the cut in her head, the claim states.
Mr Cowling alleged that his wife was screaming out "My skull is dinted! I'm bleeding! Someone help me. My head is bleeding" as she lay on the ground, naked except for underwear and a blanket, according to documents filed in a related case in the Supreme Court, where Ms Burcher was granted the court's permission to file a damages claim.
Mr Bailey claimed in court documents that he "tripped", and MSS claimed Mr Bailey just slipped, when he was trying to stop Ms Burcher, according to documents filed in another related case in the Supreme Court, where Ms Burcher was granted the court's permission to file a damages claim.
MSS wrote to Logan Hospital in July 2017 saying "It appears that the momentum of the female patient causes the officer to lose his footing which results in both persons falling".
Her head hit the metal frame around the entry to a lift as she fell.
MSS's internal review found the officers did not use excessive force, court documents state.
Mr Bailey also alleged in court documents that after the fall Ms Burcher "slapped" his colleague Ms Hadley in the face with her blood-smeared hand, saying "Do you see the blood now?".
Mr Bailey alleged that when Ms Hadley warned Ms Burcher she could be charged with assault for slapping her, Ms Burcher responded: "Try it!".
Mr Cowling states in court documents that Ms Burcher never meant to wipe Ms Hadley's cheek with her bloody hand, instead Ms Burcher believed her hand was covered in spit, not blood, as she believed she had been spat on.
"Toni put her fingers in the (spit) and wiped it on the guard's left cheek with three fingers, saying in her head as she did it 'Take your (spit) back'," Mr Cowling states in documents filed in court.
"Knowing that Toni actually wiped her own bodily fluids on another person makes (Toni) feel physically sick and mentally tortured," Mr Cowling states in court documents.
Mr Cowling said his wife "had every right to leave" the hospital on May 5, 2017 because they were dissatisfied with the hospital's care, but that as they were leaving a nurse called out "Don't let her go".
Mr Bailey says he was told to stop them both.
An Office of Fair Trading investigation into the security officers in 2017 found disciplinary action against the officers was "not warranted due to their being no clear evidence to show that security officers" acted inappropriately and no evidence of intention to cause Ms Burcher harm, court documents state.
A Queensland police investigation also did not find any evidence that the actions of security staff were unwarranted.
The $786,770 damages Ms Burcher is claiming in the Supreme Court includes $500,000 for aggravated damages for deprivation of liberty and trespass.
No date has been set for hearing the case.
MSS general counsel Penny Sena states in court documents from last year that MSS is denying any liability for the incident.
Speaking outside of court Ms Burcher told The Courier Mail that she had to endure the humiliation of "being known as 'The naked lady from the hospital'" and she remains terrified of security officers, police and hospitals.
Her fears prevent her from enjoying shopping in large centres or music gigs with her husband, a professional drummer, and makes her fearful of injuring herself accidentally because she would need to go to hospital.
She hopes that by taking legal action against the Logan Hospital and the security company, it may improve the way they train staff to deal with mental health patients and reduce the stigma of mental illness.
She denies slapping Ms Hadley on the cheek.
Originally published as Watch: Patient sues after hospital 'tackle'