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AltaPointe ordered to pay $7M in Mobile sexual assault case

The jury found that AltaPointe failed to provide a minimum standard of care that allowed a minor patient to sexually assault another patient.

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A jury Thursday ordered AltaPointe Health Systems to pay $7 million in damages in a civil suit that charges the provider failed to meet minimum standards of care that allowed a mentally-handicapped patient to be sexually assaulted.

The incident occurred in November 2019 at BayPointe Psychiatric Children’s Hospital in Mobile.

According to court documents, a patient who was 19 at the time, but had a mental level of an 11-year-old, was sexually assaulted by another minor patient within the facility. Attorneys for the victim said he was to be checked on every 15 minutes due to multiple disorders, but found that he had not been checked on for an hour and 15 minutes at the time of the incident. 

The assailant entered the room and sexually assaulted the victim for eight minutes behind a locked door before staff finally entered the room and ended the assault. But staff did not report the incident for 18 hours, and the victim was sent to a “timeout room.”

The plaintiff was awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages.

“The jury saw the appalling evidence that was presented and through its verdict found that AltaPointe’s conduct was repulsive,” said attorney Bryan Comer, representing the plaintiff. “AltaPointe breached the standard of care that was required under Alabama law in its callous treatment of our client after he was found being assaulted in his room. This verdict sends a strong message to the community as to the abhorrent way in which AltaPointe treated or vulnerable client and failed to protect their patient.”

Comer said the facility, the only mental health facility of its kind in the region, is too short-staffed to meet the minimum standards of care.

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Kim Boswell, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, told legislators last week that the system is facing a “workforce crisis,” that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and requested additional funding to attract more employees and align wages to prevent providers within the system from competing with each other.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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