On October 9, 2011, Steven Chrzanowski—of Gloucester City, N.J.—was visiting a “haunted house” on the site of the old Pennhurst Asylum.
The asylum is an infamous site that was at the center of Halderman v. Pennhurst State School & Hospital, a controversial United States Supreme Court case that granted the developmentally disabled certain constitutional rights in the face of an epidemic of abuse and neglect. That case was first filed amidst allegations that Pennhurst was unsanitary, inhumane, and hazardous. And though the Court’s decision was not completely favorable to the plaintiffs, Pennhurst eventually closed its doors in 1986. The Pennhurst scandal is also well known for its connection to one of the first class action lawsuits against abusive healthcare practices.
Today, the shuttered facility—originally called the “Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic”—is less of a historical landmark, and more of a Halloween attraction. Every fall, it opens to tourists and thrill seekers looking for a scare. And in the fall of 2011, Chrzanowski suffered more than freight. He fell victim to what he alleges was negligence, carelessness, and recklessness that led to a meniscus tear and other severe leg injuries that required surgery.
According to Chrzanowski, he was waiting in line for one of the haunted house’s attractions when employees of the site “jumped onto or otherwise abruptly caused a hospital bed to strike the plaintiff in his left knee.”
Chrzanowski filed suit on May 21 in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, seeking damages of approximately $75,000, in addition to costs and fees. He is looking to be compensated for what he describes as “pain and suffering, discomfort, incapacitation, and [the] incurred expenses related to his medical treatment.”
According to a recent article on the case, “[i]n addition to being the location for the haunted house attraction, Pennhurst is also a popular site among paranormal investigators.”