The main entrance to Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson on Thursday.

The main entrance to Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson on Thursday. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

A Suffolk judge ruled Mather Hospital had a duty to warn a cab driver when it declined to admit a schizophrenic man with a violent history who raped her minutes into his ride, court documents show.

The decision by Acting State Supreme Court Justice James Quinn allows for the negligence case filed by the driver and her husband against the hospital to continue after attorneys for Mather had sought to have the case dismissed. The couple is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages to be determined by the court.

The man, Francis Barrios, who was living in a Middle Island homeless shelter at the time of the attack, is serving a 24-year prison sentence for the Dec. 1, 2015 attack.

He had checked-in voluntarily at the hospital for treatment of anxiety, but was released from the emergency room that same day and the hospital arranged and paid for a cab ride to the shelter.

“Once Mather Hospital chose not to admit Barrios into the hospital for treatment and formed the method of discharge and paid for the transportation, this Court is of the opinion that the discharge did not take place until the patient arrived at his or her destination,” Quinn wrote in his June 15 decision. “The fact pattern of this case created a duty on behalf of the hospital to admit Barrios or at a minimum provide proper transport for a schizophrenic individual, not on his prescribed medication for an extended period of time with violent behaviors.”

Police reports, witness statements and ambulance and hospital records from the evening of the attack — included in court filings — show Barrios’ movement from an ambulance in Gordon Heights to the back of a taxi cab where bystanders confronted him and tried to offer help to the driver.

While being treated at Mather, hospital staff made the decision to send Barrios home with instructions to schedule a follow-up outpatient psychiatric appointment, according to medical records disclosed to the court. He had told medical staff he had a history of abusing animals and had been incarcerated, according to a psychiatry assessment done by the hospital.

The civil case was filed as a medical malpractice claim in 2016 and later dismissed, but an appellate court determined in 2018 that the driver could have a viable negligence claim, Quinn noted in his decision. The driver's identity is known to Newsday, but is being withheld since she was the victim of a sexual assault.

Quinn wrote that Mather Hospital could have admitted Barrios, who told both ambulance and hospital staff that he was diagnosed schizophrenic and had not taken his medication in more than a month. The hospital also could have sent him back to the shelter using medical transport, the judge noted.

“If the defendant Barrios was discharged without being stabilized, as indicated by the records, then defendant Mather Hospital owed a duty to plaintiffs to disclose or to keep Barrios hospitalized until he was stable,” Quinn wrote.

Attorneys for Mather Hospital have cited privacy concerns in why it did not disclose information about Barrios.

"Mather Hospital has the utmost respect for New York’s courts and remains committed to respecting a patient’s legally protected right to privacy," the hospital said in a statement. "Mather respectfully disagrees with the court’s decision and is pursuing all legal remedies."

Mitch Birzon, the attorney for the driver, called Quinn's decision "bold" and "rewarding."

In a statement to police the evening after the crash, the hospital’s lead financial officer at the time said he called for the cab and handed the driver $24 petty cash to cover Barrios' fare back to a shelter on Koren Lane in Middle Island.

“I said have a nice night and Francis walked out with her,” the hospital employee told police.

In her own statement, the driver, who was 34 years old at the time of the incident, said just minutes into the ride that Barrios told her “he wanted to hang out with her” and that he “was a bad boy.” As she drove down Route 25A past County Road 83 in Mount Sinai, Barrios began punching her in the face, eventually leading her to swerve and crash.

“I grabbed my mic and I was yelling ‘Car 6, car 6, please help! … then I realized he must have pulled the mic cord out,’” the driver told police.

Barrios, who was a registered sex offender at the time of the attack, soon began choking the driver, causing her to “pass out.” When she woke up, she was in the back seat of the cab being sexually assaulted, she said. 

Barrios, now 41, was charged with first-degree rape and pleaded guilty in 2016. He is serving his sentence at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate Comstock.

The parties are due back in court for a conference later this month. 

A Suffolk judge ruled Mather Hospital had a duty to warn a cab driver when it declined to admit a schizophrenic man with a violent history who raped her minutes into his ride, court documents show.

The decision by Acting State Supreme Court Justice James Quinn allows for the negligence case filed by the driver and her husband against the hospital to continue after attorneys for Mather had sought to have the case dismissed. The couple is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages to be determined by the court.

The man, Francis Barrios, who was living in a Middle Island homeless shelter at the time of the attack, is serving a 24-year prison sentence for the Dec. 1, 2015 attack.

He had checked-in voluntarily at the hospital for treatment of anxiety, but was released from the emergency room that same day and the hospital arranged and paid for a cab ride to the shelter.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A Suffolk judge has ruled Mather Hospital had a duty to warn a cab driver when it declined to admit a homeless schizophrenic man with a history of violence who raped her minutes into his ride to a residential shelter in December 2015.
  • The man, Francis Barrios, is serving a 24-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree rape in 2016.
  • The judge's decision allows the negligence case to move forward as the cab driver, who was 34 years old at the time of the incident, seeks a jury trial and monetary damages to be determined by the court. 

“Once Mather Hospital chose not to admit Barrios into the hospital for treatment and formed the method of discharge and paid for the transportation, this Court is of the opinion that the discharge did not take place until the patient arrived at his or her destination,” Quinn wrote in his June 15 decision. “The fact pattern of this case created a duty on behalf of the hospital to admit Barrios or at a minimum provide proper transport for a schizophrenic individual, not on his prescribed medication for an extended period of time with violent behaviors.”

Police reports, witness statements and ambulance and hospital records from the evening of the attack — included in court filings — show Barrios’ movement from an ambulance in Gordon Heights to the back of a taxi cab where bystanders confronted him and tried to offer help to the driver.

While being treated at Mather, hospital staff made the decision to send Barrios home with instructions to schedule a follow-up outpatient psychiatric appointment, according to medical records disclosed to the court. He had told medical staff he had a history of abusing animals and had been incarcerated, according to a psychiatry assessment done by the hospital.

The civil case was filed as a medical malpractice claim in 2016 and later dismissed, but an appellate court determined in 2018 that the driver could have a viable negligence claim, Quinn noted in his decision. The driver's identity is known to Newsday, but is being withheld since she was the victim of a sexual assault.

Quinn wrote that Mather Hospital could have admitted Barrios, who told both ambulance and hospital staff that he was diagnosed schizophrenic and had not taken his medication in more than a month. The hospital also could have sent him back to the shelter using medical transport, the judge noted.

“If the defendant Barrios was discharged without being stabilized, as indicated by the records, then defendant Mather Hospital owed a duty to plaintiffs to disclose or to keep Barrios hospitalized until he was stable,” Quinn wrote.

Attorneys for Mather Hospital have cited privacy concerns in why it did not disclose information about Barrios.

"Mather Hospital has the utmost respect for New York’s courts and remains committed to respecting a patient’s legally protected right to privacy," the hospital said in a statement. "Mather respectfully disagrees with the court’s decision and is pursuing all legal remedies."

Mitch Birzon, the attorney for the driver, called Quinn's decision "bold" and "rewarding."

In a statement to police the evening after the crash, the hospital’s lead financial officer at the time said he called for the cab and handed the driver $24 petty cash to cover Barrios' fare back to a shelter on Koren Lane in Middle Island.

“I said have a nice night and Francis walked out with her,” the hospital employee told police.

In her own statement, the driver, who was 34 years old at the time of the incident, said just minutes into the ride that Barrios told her “he wanted to hang out with her” and that he “was a bad boy.” As she drove down Route 25A past County Road 83 in Mount Sinai, Barrios began punching her in the face, eventually leading her to swerve and crash.

“I grabbed my mic and I was yelling ‘Car 6, car 6, please help! … then I realized he must have pulled the mic cord out,’” the driver told police.

Barrios, who was a registered sex offender at the time of the attack, soon began choking the driver, causing her to “pass out.” When she woke up, she was in the back seat of the cab being sexually assaulted, she said. 

Barrios, now 41, was charged with first-degree rape and pleaded guilty in 2016. He is serving his sentence at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate Comstock.

The parties are due back in court for a conference later this month. 

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