An Oceanside woman who is a former nurse at Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream was awarded nearly $5 million in civil damages on Sept. 9 in a case against a former psychiatric patient who beat her with a chair leg three years ago at the hospital, leaving her blind in one eye and both physically and mentally disabled.
State Supreme Court Justice Randy Sue Marber set the compensation for past and future health care expenses and wages for Marie Sweeney from Donte Oakes, who is serving an 11-year sentence in an upstate prison for the assault. Marber reached her decision after a one-day inquest in Mineola because Oakes did not respond to a lawsuit.
Sweeney, 56, said she understands that she will most likely never collect any money from Oakes, who pleaded guilty to the assault. “I’m never going to see a penny,” she told the Herald this week. “This was never about the money, but about making sure that something like this never happens again. I feel bad about [Oakes], but the hospital didn’t do the right thing. This is about what I lost. I’m never going to get back my 28-year career. I have headaches and shoulder aches and am blind in my left eye. I’m extremely depressed, and cannot ever again work in a stressful situation.”
On Sept. 10, 2010, Oakes interrupted a group therapy session led by Sweeney. Using a chair leg, he struck her repeatedly, fracturing her facial bones, rupturing a vertebrae disk and causing other trauma.
“This transformed someone who was a very vibrant, very active woman,” said Sweeney’s attorney, Carol Schlitt. “She has suffered greatly.”
Oakes broke the leg off a heavy piece of furniture and put it under his shirt, Sweeney said. “He walked right by the nurse’s station with the furniture leg,” she said. “Even though he had assaulted three other staff members two weeks before, nobody challenged him; nobody gave him a second glance. He opened the door and then closed it behind him. My back was to him, and he started swinging the leg like a baseball bat hitting a ball. He just kept hitting me, and I became semiconscious.