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 nurse's station when the patient jumped over the counter, knocked her to the ground and bit her ear lobe off.

DSHS spokeswoman Kelly Stowe said the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.