Family of woman killed in Mercy Hospital shooting sues hospital, security contractor
The 12-count suit filed by the family of Dayna Less accuses Mercy Hospital, SDI Security Inc. and Trinity Health Inc. with negligence.
The family of a woman killed in the shooting last year at Mercy Hospital filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday against the hospital, its security contractor and the estate of the deceased shooter.
The 12-count suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court by the family of Dayna Less, accuses Mercy Hospital, SDI Security Inc. and Trinity Health Inc. with negligence. It also accuses gunman Juan Lopez, killed by police during the shooting, with intentional battery.
Lopez shot and killed his former fiancee, Dr. Tamara O’Neal, after confronting her in the hospital parking lot on Nov. 19, 2018. He then re-entered the hospital and fatally shot Less, a pharmacy resident, as she was getting off an elevator.
Lopez also fatally wounded Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez in a gun battle with police before fatally shooting himself.
The suit claims the hospital and SDI failed to follow their own protocols in response to the shooting. The complaint contends the hospital and security agency were negligent in failing to issue a ”Code Silver” alert for an active shooter or implement a lockdown of the building.
According to the suit, the alert would have warned Less about the threat, and the lockdown would have prevented Lopez from re-entering the hospital after shooting O’Neal in the parking lot.
A lockdown also would have shut down the building’s elevators, preventing Less from riding from the basement pharmacy where she worked to the lobby, where she was shot, the suit claims. The suit states a “Code Silver” alert was not issued until after Less was shot.
The complaint also contends hospital and security officials were negligent in failing to confront Lopez during the time he spent in the hospital lobby between his arrival at 1:45 p.m. and the start of his confrontation with O’Neal in the parking lot at 3:12 p.m.
“Mercy and SDI literally watched this armed and dangerous man hunt down and kill Dr. O’Neal, then shoot at the police when they arrived, and then stop and reload his weapon. Yet they did nothing,” said Matthew Piers, an attorney for the Less family. “Amazingly, they continued to do nothing as Lopez walked back into the still unlocked hospital building.”
Mercy Hospital officials, in a statement said, they are aware of the lawsuit filed by Less’ family but can’t comment on the case “due to pending litigation.”
“We continue to extend our deepest sympathy to Dr. Less’ family and friends over her tragic death,” the statement also said.
SDI and Trinity Health could not be reached for comment.
SDI Security Inc., which is owned by former Ald. Patrick Huels (11th), filed a contribution lawsuit Monday in Cook County Circuit Court against the city of Chicago and Chicago police officers involved in the response to the shooting.
SDI’s suit claims responding officers failed to confront the shooter or prevent him from re-entering the hospital after the shooting in the parking lot and therefore are partially liable for any damages related to the shooting.
In the suit, SDI denies any liability for injuries in the shooting but contends the city and police should have to contribute to the payment of any damages if a judgment is returned against SDI.
A spokesman for the city Law Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.
SDI’s Huels is the former powerhouse alderman from Bridgeport who resigned in 1997 after the Chicago Sun-Times reported he got a $1.1 million loan from Michael Tadin, a perennial city trucking contractor.
Huels had helped Tadin get a $1.25 million city subsidy.
It was the first major scandal for then-Mayor Richard M. Daley — and it literally hit home.
Huels represented the 11thWard, the Daley family’s ancestral home and political fiefdom, and also served as the mayor’s City Council floor leader making sure aldermen knew which way to vote.
The Tadin loan helped drive Huels into bankruptcy when he said he was unable to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of credit card bills to companies, including Neiman Marcus, Marshall Field’s and Brooks Brothers. At the time, Huels reported he was making $225,000-a-year as president of SDI, the security company at, among other places, Comiskey Park. Most of his credit card debts were wiped out. Tadin, a major shareholder in SDI, had a $50,000 lien on Huels’ Bridgeport condo.
Now-indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th) was also caught up in the Huels scandal.
A former Chicago police officer, Burke served as SDI’s licensee in charge, the company’s chief security professional for five years and was corporate secretary for four years.
At the time, SDI President Michael Pedicone, who incorporated SDI in 1989 and ran the firm out of his Loop law office, was retained as a consultant both by the Burke-chaired City Council Finance Committee and by the Transportation Committee chaired by Huels. Pedicone was paid more than $650,000 by the two committees.
Contributing: Stefano Esposito