by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | April 20, 2022
A hospital technician is suing Hackensack University Medical Center for damages resulting from an attack that left her burned by chemicals.
The 54-year-old, who is not named, says the hospital lacked the necessary security measures to prevent the attack, which was perpetrated by 31-year-old Nicholas Pagano, a licensed travel nurse who started working at the facility in mid-November, according to NJ.com
Pagano carried out the attack on February 7
when he entered the break room and hit the woman over the head with a wrench and then sprayed her with chemicals. The woman suffered third-degree burns on her upper body and hands and had a head laceration that required stitches, reported Patch.com
. She was taken to specialized burn hospital for treatment.
Pagano fled in a car following the attack and was found dead in Waterford the next day from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The technician alleges in her suit that Pagano was probably off-duty but still able to enter because the hospital and unnamed defendants “negligently, careless, and unlawfully made, permitted and allowed a person not authorized to be on the premises to enter and remain on so as to constitute a danger to patients, employees, occupants and others...” and that security systems “were ineffective and/or defective.”
A witness told police that Pagano was not scheduled to work that day but that they saw him enter a hallway near the break room at about 5:15 a.m. The witness then heard a woman scream, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
“[The witness] then observed the victim running in the hallway, with Pagano chasing her [and] striking her with what appeared to be a wrench,” the affidavit states. “There was also charring located in the break room in the area where the victim was believed to have been sitting,” police wrote in the affidavit.
Police recovered a wrench from the scene of the attack, and additional security was set up outside the hospital after the incident.
The suit alleges that the agency that referred Pagano to the hospital failed to screen him properly. Bruce Nagel, an attorney for Nagel Rice of Roseland and the plaintiff’s solicitor, says the agency’s name is still unknown but will become available as the suit progresses. He also says that Pagano’s mental state and work record are being investigated, although hospital spokesperson Ben Goldstein said back in February that he had undergone a full screening prior to starting at the medical center. “The agency did not do a proper investigation” into Pagano, Nagel said, but did not offer any details.
The victim’s husband is a co-plaintiff and is seeking damages for loss of consortium with his wife, who is currently in a rehabilitation facility with what Nagel says are “horrible” burns to her face and other parts of her body. The motive for the attack is still under investigation.
The hospital refused to comment on the suit but in a statement, said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to our team member and her family,” said Maryjo Layton, a hospital spokesperson. “We cannot comment on pending litigation.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help finance the woman’s recovery process. It currently has amassed nearly $24,000 out of $50,000.