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Western St. Hospital nurse who lost ear lobe in patient attack sues state

FILE - In this file photo taken April 11, 2017, a security officer stands on steps at the entrance to Western State Hospital, in Lakewood, Wash. Hundreds of mentally ill patients at Washington state's largest psychiatric hospital are forced to live in conditions that do not meet federal health and safety standards, while overworked nurses and psychiatrists say they must navigate a management system that punishes whistleblowers. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — A nurse at Washington state's largest psychiatric hospital who lost part of her ear when she was assaulted by a patient is suing the state for $5 million.

The tort claim filed Wednesday by a lawyer for Bernia Garner says the Department of Social and Health Services created a dangerous work environment by failing to properly staff the wards.

The lawsuit also says Western State Hospital officials knew the patient had a history of assaulting female staff, but failed to take measures to protect workers.

At the time of the Sept. 30 attack, Garner was the only registered nurse on duty, when hospital policy required three, the lawsuit says.

Garner was working behind the nurses station when the patient jumped over the counter, knocked her to the ground and bit her ear lobe off.

The state agency and hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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