A federal judge Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought against the state by a pregnant mental health worker who was repeatedly stabbed by a patient at the state’s Riverview Psychiatric Center.

The worker, Jamie Hill-Spotswood, argued in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor that less than a week before the attack on March 16, 2013, she told the assistant director of nursing at the Augusta hospital that she was 18 weeks pregnant and felt unsafe because there was no security on the floor where she worked.

Judge George Singal rejected Hill-Spotswood’s claims that the state had failed to protect her, stating in his order dismissing the suit that her attacker, Mark Murphy, created the danger, not the state.

“Mere awareness by the government of the danger posed by a private individual is not sufficient to amount to a due process violation,” Singal said in his 11-page order.

The attack prompted state officials to bring in corrections officers to monitor patients, and triggered an audit that cost the state millions of dollars in federal funding after federal authorities objected to the new security measures.

Hill-Spotswood said in the lawsuit, filed against Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, that the floor was populated by patients known to be “very, very violent” and known to have threatened or attacked workers and other patients many times.

Her attorney, Michael Waxman, argued in the lawsuit filed last May 19 that the state did nothing after Hill-Spotswood told staffers at the Augusta hospital that she felt unsafe, and that she was never informed that Murphy had a “prolific history of violence.”

“So, predictably, when Mark Murphy, a known violent individual, decided to become violent yet again, DHHS provided the lamb for the slaughter, and enabled – by its inexcusable failure to protect employees from foreseeable and grave danger – Mr. Murphy to stab her repeatedly in the hand and face,” Waxman wrote in the lawsuit.

Waxman said Thursday that Hill-Spotswood plans to appeal the judge’s dismissal.

“The court claims that Ms. Spotswood failed to articulate any affirmative steps taken by the defendants which caused this malicious attack to occur, but that is not correct. When Riverview hired Ms. Spotswood and assigned her to this part of the hospital where extremely dangerous inmates like Murphy resided, it did not let her know what she was getting herself into, did not apprise her in any way of the gravity of the risk to which she was being exposed,” Waxman said in an email.

David Sorensen, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said Thursday afternoon that he needed to review the judge’s order before commenting.

Witnesses at Murphy’s one-day trial in October 2013 said that on the day of the incident, he first apologized to Hill-Spotswood and then attacked her by punching her and stabbing her with a pen.

Witnesses said that the before, Murphy was angry because the staff had canceled his Saturday visit to his parents’ home in Kittery.

Hill-Spotswood testified at the trial in Kennebec County Superior Court, saying, “I curled in a fetal position and stuck my hands on top of my head, covering my face.”

A staff member and a patient stepped in to pull Murphy off and rescue her, witnesses said. The attack did not affect Hill-Spotswood’s pregnancy, and she has since delivered a healthy baby.

In January 2014, Justice Donald Marden convicted Murphy of elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault, finding that anger, not mental illness, drove him to attack.

Murphy has since been sentenced to 10 years of a 15-year sentence. The remaining five years were suspended for a two-year probation term.

The attack on Hill-Spotswood heightened security concerns at Riverview, prompting the hospital to bring in state and county corrections officers to monitor specific patients. The officers were stripped of stun guns and handcuffs in May 2013, after federal regulators objected to the new measures, and the county officers were gone by the end of August.

The attack also triggered a federal audit of the hospital, which led to the loss of its eligibility for $20 million in federal money – about half of the hospital’s budget.

Because of ongoing problems at the facility, Superintendent Mary Louise McEwen was forced out last March after five years on the job.

Riverview is Maine’s only hospital for forensic patients – people with mental illness who have committed violent or other criminal acts and have been sent to the hospital by courts. The hospital, which opened in 2004, has 92 beds.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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