A King County civil jury has ordered Overlake Hospital Medical Center to pay $950,000 in damages to a mentally ill woman who was assaulted by another patient while undergoing psychiatric treatment at the Bellevue hospital.
Civil attorneys Lincoln Beauregard and Steven Fogg filed the lawsuit last year, alleging that Overlake was negligent because no one was monitoring the video-camera surveillance system in the psychiatric unit where the assault took place. They also alleged that the hospital was not checking in on the mentally ill patients on a regular basis.
“You have a vulnerable 27-year-old woman who was trying to be stabilized. She wasn’t supposed to be sexually assaulted,” Beauregard said Tuesday. “Overlake Hospital repeatedly pointed the finger at her. They said she had opportunities and choices and should have screamed louder.”
The jury reached its verdict Monday after an eight-day civil trial in Superior Court.
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Beauregard said his client, who had prior diagnoses of schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is even more emotionally damaged as a result.
“She now has exacerbated PTSD. She’s severely mentally ill. She’s a fighter who is doing really good trying to get her mental illnesses under control,” Beauregard said.
“This is an unfortunate situation,” Kipepeo “Pep” Brown, the hospital’s director of marketing, communications and community outreach, said in an email Tuesday. “Overlake Medical Center is currently considering our options for appeal. At this point, we cannot comment further on the details of the case or the judgment.”
The victim, who is not being named by The Seattle Times because she was the victim of a sexual assault, checked herself into the hospital’s psychiatric unit on Jan. 18, 2012, after feeling suicidal, according to court filings in the civil case.
Overlake’s voluntary inpatient unit is considered a crisis-stabilization unit, Barb Berkau, then the hospital’s director of inpatient psychiatry, told The Times in January 2012. Most patients are admitted for three to five days, but the length of stay is determined by an individual’s treatment plan and progress, she said.
At some point during the night, the woman went to a common room and watched TV with two or three other patients who were already there, including Taylor Rockwell Anderson, according to a probable-cause statement filed after Anderson was arrested for investigation of third-degree rape.
Anderson followed the woman when she walked back to her hospital room, grabbed her and kissed her on the lips, according to the statement. She “told him she didn’t want to kiss him and shrugged him off and went into her room,” and he left, the statement said.
Sometime later, the woman returned to the TV room because she couldn’t sleep and saw that the man was there, the statement said. She grew tired and returned to her room, and he followed her again.
Anderson kissed her again. When she told him to stop, he pushed her onto the bed and sexually assaulted her, according to the statement.
The woman fought him off and talked him into leaving, but he then pulled her back into the room, removed her clothes and again assaulted her, the statement said. The woman pushed him off and ordered him out of the room, then reported what had happened to a staff member, according to the charging papers.
Anderson pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault and was given a 12-month deferred sentence, which was later dismissed because he broke no new laws and was a first-time offender. A spokesman for the King County Prosecutor’s Office could not be reached Tuesday to explain the plea agreement.
According to a sentencing memo written by his defense attorney David J. Seeley, Anderson was a star athlete and accomplished student at Bellevue High School. After graduating in 2009, he went to the University of Washington and maintained a 3.4 grade-point average while studying business and economics.
He took a leave from school due to mental-health issues, when the assault occurred, Seeley wrote in the memo.
According to a report taken by a nurse after the attack, Anderson said he went into the woman’s room and sexually assaulted her. When the nurse asked Anderson if he knew what he did was wrong, he nodded.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives. Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.