A Pierce County jury awarded nearly $550,000 to a former Western State Hospital employee who claimed he’d been retaliated against after reporting expired and improperly stored meat.
A jury Friday awarded the money to Michael Quayle, who was fired from Western State, Washington’s largest psychiatric facility, in November 2014, according to a news release from Quayle’s attorney.
That year, “Quayle reported expired and improperly stored meat in a location where food was prepared for patients,” according to the news release by attorney James Beck.
The meat included chicken hearts and gizzards. Photos provided by Beck of the meats’ packaging show sell-by dates for 2013.
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After reporting the incident, Quayle says, he faced a hostile work environment and was reassigned to do desk work. After he filed a grievance, the hospital fired him, according to the news release.
A Pierce County Superior Court jury found that the state retaliated against Quayle for reporting patient neglect or abuse. Jurors awarded Quayle $548,030 to cover past and future damages from the incident, according to court documents.
Adolfo Capestany, spokesman for the state Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees the hospital, said the agency will have “further discussions with legal counsel to determine any next steps.”
Beck on Friday said he was “very pleased” with the jury’s decision. “It was a recognition of what our client suffered through, his ordeal,” he said.
Western State has struggled in recent years with staff shortages, safety issues and the threat of losing its federal certification and funding.
After two dangerous patients escaped earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee fired the hospital’s CEO and appointed a new one as part of a turnaround effort.
The hospital has entered into an improvement agreement with the federal government and this summer quietly withdrew from a national accreditation program.