Eugene Wright of Meadville says police and medical workers got the wrong man when they transported him to the local hospital this summer and injected him with anti-psychotic drugs against his will, thinking he was someone else.
“The experience that I went through, this should never happen to anybody. It’s very simple to check ID,” said Mr. Wright, 63. “These people need to be held responsible.”
Mr. Wright and his wife, Carolyn Wright, made their allegations in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday against the police in Meadville, the Meadville Medical Center and a local crisis center, Stairways Behavioral Health.
Mr. Wright had the misfortune to have the same name as another Eugene Wright, a psychiatric patient who police said had issued threats at his doctor’s office, his suit says.
Mr. Wright said he was walking to his car near his home after completing his shift at an auto parts store on June 15 when two Meadville police officers and a representative of the crisis center confronted him.
The officers told him he’d been at his orthopedic doctor’s office that morning and made threats to harm himself and others.
This is what Mr. Wright says happened next, according to his complaint:
Mr. Wright said they had the wrong guy.
But he said they refused to check his identity or call his employer, then handcuffed him and drove him to Meadville Medical Center.
There, medical personnel said they were going to inject him with drugs. He protested, saying he hadn’t threatened anyone and that they were making a mistake.
He kept asking the police, a doctor and other hospital employees to check his identity in his wallet, including his Social Security number and date of birth, and to call Advance Auto Parts, where he worked in customer service.
He said he had been at work that morning, when the threats were allegedly being delivered, and had come home at about 1:45 p.m.
But everyone refused to verify his identity, he said. And if he didn’t cooperate, he said, the police officers threatened to hold him down so the drugs could be injected by a nurse. He didn’t want to be restrained so, after 10 minutes of arguing, he let the nurse inject him.
After that, according to the complaint, “things were starting to get pretty fuzzy.”
He doesn’t remember leaving the hospital, but he learned later his wife drove him home.
Later, according to the suit, he found out that the emergency room checked patient records and realized that it was the other Eugene Wright who had the doctor’s office visit that morning.
The ER staff learned that when the orthopedic doctor’s staff called the crisis center that morning about the threats, the crisis center supervisor didn’t ask for Eugene Wright’s birthdate.
“So they made the incorrect assumption that the patient who was making threats was [the plaintiff],” the suit says.
Mr. Wright said one of the officers also admitted to his daughter that it was another Eugene Wright who had issued the threats.
The officer, who knew the plaintiff Mr. Wright, said he assumed they had the right Mr. Wright once he heard the name and didn’t verify the address with the doctor’s office.
The officer apologized to the daughter and left the hospital, according to the suit.
Mr. Wright said the hospital later apologized to him and gave him a $50 gift card for a restaurant. The crisis center also apologized and gave him a $25 Walmart gift card.
He used the gift cards, but he said the entire experience shook him up.
“I have a very hard time sleeping,” he said. “I have lost almost 40 pounds.”
He said the whole thing could have been avoided had the police, or the hospital staff, just checked his records.
“Right from the beginning, I offered — ‘Please, check my identity. Call my work,’” he said. “Nobody would do that. Not even the hospital. No one would look at any of that. They just kept insisting they had the right person.”
His suit, filed by Butler attorneys Al Lindsay and Jessica Tully, accuses the hospital and the crisis center of negligence and intentionally causing him distress, among other claims.
The suit also names “John and Jack Doe,” the two Meadville officers whose identities he didn’t know, and accused them of violating his civil rights. The police department and the chief, Michael Tautin, are also defendants.
Mr. Wright’s wife also joined with her husband in suing all of the parties for loss of consortium.
Chief Tautin said he hadn’t been served with the suit and so couldn’t comment. The hospital and the crisis center did not respond to messages.