ASH tried to cover up murder, fired whistleblower, lawsuit alleges

April 26, 2017

Adam Paul Cary

Atascadero State Hospital staff allegedly tried to cover up its apparent liability in a 2014 murder in which a patient strangled to death his roommate. ASH then fired a social worker for blowing the whistle, according to a lawsuit filed in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court. [Tribune]

On May 28, 2014, an ASH psychiatrist reportedly found Allan Turner, 53, with his face stuffed in a dorm pillow and Adam Paul Cary on top of him. Cary, who is 6 foot 8 inches tall and weighs 225 pounds, reportedly attacked Turner while he was asleep. Cary pleaded no contest to first-degree murder in late 2015, and he was then sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, April Grundfor, who formerly worked as a clinical social worker at the hospital, alleges ASH staff instructed her to alter her clinical notes to protect the institution from liability for Turner’s death. When Grundfor chose not to comply, and instead spoke with authorities about the hospital’s shortcomings, ASH fired her, the lawsuit alleges.

According too the lawsuit, in the weeks leading up to the murder, Cary committed multiple acts of violence against other patients. Cary’s violence resulted in hospital staff writing special reports about him.

Hospital staff knew the risk Cary posed, but they chose to leave Turner alone with him, the suit alleges. Staff also opted not to place Cary in restricted holding, which would have involved frequent observation by staffers.

Prior to the murder, Cary wrote a letter stating he wanted to harm a staff member or another patient. Grundfor informed her supervising doctor, who briefly acknowledged the problem, then continued reading a book, according to the suit.

Hours later, the doctor and Grundfor responded to a “red light alarm” upon which they found a janitor restraining Cary and Turner appearing to take his final breaths.

ASH falsely claimed the murder was discovered by the doctor, not the janitor, according to the suit. By giving that account of the events, ASH was trying to cover up the lack of care by the doctor and protect the hospital from liability, the lawsuit alleges.

On May 28, 2014, Grundfor gave her account of the events to an Atascadero police detective. Grundfor again spoke out against the hospital’s deficiencies in an inter-disciplinary note dated June 9, 2014, the lawsuit states.

In response, ASH moved Grundfor to a work area with no private phone access nor adequate computers and printers. Hospital management also denied her access to patient medical records, and her supervisors instructed her not to speak to the families of Turner or Cary, according to the suit.

On June 6, 2014, Grundfor received a disciplinary letter stating she had difficulty with professional relationships, and she was placed on an employee action plan. Twelve days later, Grundfor received a letter threatening further disciplinary action.

On June 26, 2014, Grundfor was told she was fired, and two supervisors escorted her from her workplace. Grundfor was terminated because of her note detailing the circumstances of Turner’s murder, the lawsuit states. Additionally, Grundfor was told not to apply for work at any local clinics or hospitals because “people talk,” according to the suit.

Grundfor is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages for lost earnings; back pay; past, present and future medical bills; emotional distress; and legal costs.

Previously, Turner’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ASH, alleging several patients in Cary’s unit complained that he was violent and threatening. ASH staff failed to properly assess Cary and left him in the wrong environment, according to the suit.

Cary had convictions of attempted rape and assault prior to the murder. Also, he was allegedly experiencing religious and sexual delusions.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

If what is written is true, sounds like the doctor should be fired and employee reinstated.

As a former ASH employee, I am totally disgusted by the actions of the hospital. Shameful.