Incarcerated woman says WVDHHR responsible for sexual harassment

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 29, 2014

CHARLESTON – An incarcerated woman is suing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources after she claims she was sexually harassed and abused while in its custody.

The William R. Sharpe Hospital and Zachary Thomas McCarty were also named as defendants in the suit.

From December 2010 until February 2011, Maria Decicio-Smith was committed to William R. Sharpe Hospital and the WVDHHR for evaluation regarding her fitness to stand trial on criminal charges against her in Berkeley County, according to a complaint filed Feb. 22 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Decicio-Smith claims while she was at the hospital for evaluation, McCarty, who was employed by the defendants, sexually abused, molested, fondled and assaulted her.

After Decicio-Smith’s discharge from Sharpe, McCarty’s actions were reported to police authorities and McCarty was arrested and charged with sexual assault, according to the suit.

Decicio-Smith claims the defendants had a duty to protect her from harm and failed to do so.

The defendants knew or should have known that their failure to protect Decicio-Smith would result in physical and emotional harm, according to the suit.

Decicio-Smith claims McCarty’s conduct was willful, intentional and unlawful.

As a result of the defendants’ negligence, carelessness, recklessness and/or unlawful conduct, Decicio-Smith suffered permanent psychological injuries; pain, suffering and mental anguish; humiliation, embarrassment and shame; and other general and special damages, according to the suit.

Decicio-Smith is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by Robert W. Trumble and Suzanne Williams-McAuliffe at McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner, LC.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Tod J. Kaufman.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-376

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