Attorneys at Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky today sued Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital alleging systemic security failures resulted in last October’s execution-style murder of Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Anrae T. James, who was killed by a heavily armed, off-duty co-worker, according to the lawsuit. After the attack, murderer Stacey Hayes, who had a history of violence, fled the hospital and wounded two Philadelphia police officers in a shootout before his capture.
Attorney Steven G. Wigrizer, of SMB, said the complaint (James v. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital et al., Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas) was filed this morning on behalf of Mr. James’ widow and their three children. “Our pre-suit investigation concluded that the defendants are responsible for the litany of outrageous security failures that Jefferson officials admitted to only after this heinous killing. Justice now demands they be held accountable for their reckless inaction that put Mr. James and others – including staff, patients, visitors and medical Jefferson’s own medical students – at risk. When Hayes entered Jefferson Hospital’s S. 10th St. building, he was carrying a large bag containing assorted guns and wearing body armor. He walked uncontested through an unsecured main entrance without being stopped because there were no guards at their assigned stations.” Besides asserting claims of wrongful death and negligence, the lawsuit seeks a jury trial, along with unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
According to the complaint, the heavily armed shooter – his weapons reportedly included an AR-15 assault rifle – did not have to pass through a metal detector. He was not scheduled to work that night, and due to the lax security, did not have to justify his surprise appearance. It is asserted that had the full range of necessary security measures been in place, Hayes would have been denied entry, detained, and Mr. James would be alive today.
“The detailed record shows that this was a tragedy in the making that could have and should have been averted if only hospital management had acted in the best interest of its heroic health care employees who, like Anrae James, devote their lives to helping others,” explained Mr. Wigrizer. “We vehemently disagree with Jefferson’s public relations position that the sweeping corrective measures Jefferson implemented after this tragedy would have been insufficient to prevent Mr. James’s murder. Jefferson knew for years that violent crime was regularly occurring at its Hospital and, in fact, hardened security in other parts of its campus, and that the same type of enhanced security measures were not only feasible, but also necessary in the building where Mr. James and hundreds of his other heroic co-workers worked 24/7.”
Barbara James, who was married to Anrae James for 11 years, said, “Anrae loved everyone, especially our three children, and loved his work, helping people every day. Like everyone else at the Hospital, Anrae relied on Jefferson to protect him while at work. He was supposed to feel safe there. We have so many questions and can only hope and pray they’re finally answered at trial.”
SMB attorney Jason S. Weiss, representing Ms. James along with Mr. Wigrizer and attorney Aidan B. Carickhoff, noted that the fatal shooting was not unforeseen, but the latest in a string of violent incidents in and around the Jefferson campus; many of which are cited in the lawsuit. “This was not an isolated violent incident. To the contrary, there were so many past crimes that Jefferson created and publicly shared online a ‘Crime Log’, where Jefferson publicly documented the violent criminal activity at its facilities. until Jefferson discontinued its reporting practice in 2018. But the violence continued. This attack was not unforeseen.” SMB attorney Carickhoff added, “For all of us, work should be a safe space to do what we love. And until October 4, 2021, that was true for Anrae James. He dedicated his life to helping others. But Jefferson failed to help Anrae when he needed it most. We look forward to telling his story at trial.”