A Mobile County Circuit Court jury reached a $7 million verdict in a civil case concerning the rape of a patient at BayPointe Children's Psychiatric Hospital in Mobile.

AltaPointe Health Systems violated the standard of care and failed to protect a young man who another patient raped, attorneys for the victim claimed.

Although AltaPointe initially denied most of the allegations, the sexual assault happened in November 2019 when the mentally incapacitated patient, 19 at the time but functions at the level of an 11-year-old, was in his room alone after not being checked on for an hour and 15 minutes. The attorneys for the victim, Tobias McCormick & Comer, LLC., argued that hospital staff had been directed to check on him every 15 minutes, as he suffered from multiple disorders, including intermittent explosive disorder, ADHD, autism and borderline intellectual functioning. Court documents state there were periods as long as six hours that hospital staff went without adding health information to the patient's chart. Attorney Bryan Comer told 1819 News that AltaPointe, the only source of mental health help in the region, was too short-staffed to provide a minimum standard of care.

"The jury saw the appalling evidence that was presented and, through its verdict, found that AltaPointe's conduct was repulsive," said Comer. "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 our vulnerable client and failed to protect their patient."

The patient who raped the victim was also an unsupervised minor at the time. It was revealed in court that AltaPointe employees had to open a locked door to stop the assault.

Attorneys also said in court that the assault was not reported for 18 hours.

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

"I think he understands that something important has happened, and I think that he's relieved to know that after so long, the jury believed him and he was able to do what he did, but as far as the true gravity of it, I don't know if he ever will understand," Comer said of his client.

The young man's family said as a result of the sexual assault and rape that, he suffered physical injury, mental distress, mental anguish and suffering.

"We're over three years later, and he still can't sleep in a room by himself," said Comer. "He's afraid people will attack him. So, this is something he's going to carry with him for the rest of his life."

In court filings, the plaintiff's mother said the incident deprived her son of enjoyment in life and that he would have to continue treatment in the future for permanent injuries.

"She [the plaintiff's mom] had taken on AltaPointe and sought justice for her son, and it was obviously a difficult process for both of them," attorney Lacey Smith told 1819 News. "Like any mother, she was devastated with what happened to her child, so now there are all kinds of relief and emotions just like for all of us. It's overwhelming emotions to get justice for her son."

BayPointe Children's Psychiatric Hospital is the region's only free-standing children's psychiatric hospital.

"The people of Alabama, and across the country, need to have assurance that their children are safe when seeking much-needed mental health care," said Smith stated in a press release. "What happened to our client should never happen to another child in AltaPointe's care or anyone else's. The punitive damages, in this case, were necessary to punish AltaPointe and say this is completely unacceptable in our community or anywhere."

The attorney for AltaPointe, G.R. Trawick, with Slaten Law, P.C., was unavailable for comment.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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