- An Arkansas psychiatrist is facing seven separate lawsuits alleging false imprisonment.
- Patients say he held them for days without legal authority, using coercion, threats and sedatives.
- Three former patients say they were trapped in a facility until sheriff’s deputies escorted them out.
Seven patients have sued a prominent Arkansas psychiatrist over the past three months alleging false imprisonment, claiming they were held against their will at the behavioral health facility he oversaw.
Three of them say they couldn’t leave until sheriff’s deputies helped them escape.
The four women and three men filed separate lawsuits outlining their admissions to the behavioral health services unit at Northwest Medical Center in Springdale, which was overseen by Dr. Brian Hyatt. Each of the patients said in their lawsuits that they weren’t allowed to leave for days, even though neither the facility nor Hyatt had the legal authority to keep them there.
Patient attorneys told Insider that Hyatt and its staff coerce, threaten and calm patients to keep them at the facility and frequently revoke phone privileges to prevent them from communicating with relatives or attorneys. In some cases, staff threatened to keep patients in the facility for up to 45 days unless they stopped asking to leave, the lawyers said.
“You’re trapped in this facility, you’re told you can’t leave, you don’t know what your rights are, and now they’re cutting off your communication with the outside world and any hope of rescue or help,” Monte Sharits, one of the attorneys working on the case, told Insider. “It was a house of horrors. It’s a nightmare for them.”
The lawsuits were filed within the last four months in the Circuit Court of Washington County, Arkansas. The Arkansas team of attorneys handling the cases told Insider they’ve been retained by about 30 clients with similar allegations and that more lawsuits are pending.
Patients in all seven trials also described receiving substandard or non-existent medical care during their stay and receiving unknown or inappropriate medications.
Some of the patients who sued said they had never even met Hyatt, who was the only psychiatrist employed and licensed to treat patients on the unit. Others described meeting Hyatt only briefly, but never being evaluated by him.
A woman alleged Hyatt wrote 45 pages of memos describing her as “unkempt and unstable”, despite never having met, examined or treated her once.
Another patient said the only care he received during his five-day stay was unnecessary group therapy which “consisted of patients sitting with a ‘provider’ and discussing things like their favorite Sonic drinks” , according to his lawsuit.
Northwest Health told Insider it is no longer associated with Hyatt.
Hyatt did not return Insider’s requests for comment and its attorney declined to comment.
A Northwest Health representative told Insider in a statement that Hyatt was an independent physician contacted to oversee behavioral health patients at the hospital.
“We take our responsibility to provide a safe care environment for our patients and our team members very seriously,” the written statement read. “While we don’t normally comment on ongoing litigation, I can share that last spring we took a number of steps to keep our patients safe, including hiring new responsible providers. clinical care of our behavioral health patients in early May 2022.”
Patients claim Hyatt held them prisoner as part of insurance ‘plan’
Hyatt’s motive was to keep all beds in the behavioral health unit full to maximize profits, according to Sharits.
“The pattern is this: get as many patients in as you can, keep them there for as long as you can – even if that means keeping them illegally beyond the 72-hour duration and holding them against their will,” he said. Shares.
Meanwhile, Hyatt was fraudulently overcharging patients’ health insurance companies, Sharits said.
The seven plaintiffs said their spouses, parents, partners or other relatives repeatedly called or appeared in person to demand their release from the facility, but were unsuccessful. Three of the patients eventually obtained court orders requiring their release and were eventually freed when sheriff’s deputies arrived and escorted them away, according to the lawsuits.
Under Arkansas law, patients can be held against their will for up to 72 hours if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others, provided they are evaluated by a doctor in the first 24 hours. Medical facilities must obtain a court order to detain patients beyond 72 hours.
Bryant Crooks, one of the attorneys representing the former patients, told Insider none of that happened for his clients.
“In none of these cases – even when an involuntary hold was strategically applied to keep those detained – were they ever evaluated by a physician to determine if they posed a danger to themselves or others” , Crooks said. “It was done purely for the purpose of keeping them there and stopping efforts to get them out.”
A patient alleged Hyatt staff tried to intimidate her into staying longer even as deputies escorted her away. Staff threatened to force her to stay for 45 days unless she voluntarily re-enrolled at the facility, according to the lawsuit.
Another patient, who was brought to the facility in March 2022 after citing suicidal thoughts, hired an attorney who initially wrote Northwest Health a letter asking for her release and stating that the patient was being held against her will.
A charge nurse waved the letter while laughing, the patient alleges in the lawsuit. “This legal stuff doesn’t work here,” the nurse yelled, according to court documents.
Aaron Cash, another team attorney, told Insider that he once emailed Hyatt a copy of a court order requiring a patient’s release. Hyatt responded by mocking the college Cash attended and insulting “the remodeled dentist office you work in,” according to a copy of the email provided to Insider.
Hyatt under investigation for Medicaid and Medicare fraud
Hyatt is also being investigated by Arkansas state officials for Medicaid and Medicare fraud and has been suspended from the Arkansas Medicaid program, according to public records obtained by the Arkansas Advocate. Hyatt has not been criminally charged.
The state investigation is examining Hyatt’s practice of billing Medicaid at the highest possible reimbursement rate, despite never seeing or physically examining patients, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the state. ‘attorney.
Hyatt was an influential Arkansas psychiatrist, having been appointed to the Arkansas State Medical Board in 2019 by former Governor Asa Hutchinson and later elected President. Hyatt also has its own practice, Pinnacle Premier Psychiatry.
Local broadcaster 5NEWS, which also covered the patient lawsuits, reported Northwest terminated Hyatt’s contract in May last year and Hyatt resigned as chairman of the state medical board. early March.
Hyatt and Northwest Health are also named co-defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2021. The lawsuit accuses Hyatt of “prematurely and improperly” discharging a suicidal patient without counseling the patient or family on the seriousness of his condition. The patient died by suicide the day after he was discharged, and the trial is expected to go to trial in August.
Northwest did not respond to Insider’s request for comment on the wrongful death lawsuit, but in court filings, the hospital denied the allegations. Hyatt also denied the wrongful death allegations in court filings.