WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Two more former patients have filed lawsuits against a Northwest Arkansas psychiatrist and other defendants, alleging false imprisonment and abuse while in his care.

The latest suits name Dr. Brian T. Hyatt of Rogers, his practice, Northwest Arkansas Hospitals, Northwest Medical Center, Community Health Systems and 25 unnamed hospital employees in complaints seeking damages and a jury trial. Hyatt is at the center of various other legal cases as well as a Medicaid billing fraud investigation.

Medb “MJ” Hestia and Heather Welch each filed complaints in the Washington County circuit court on April 7, bringing the total of nearly identical lawsuits filed since January to nine. Both state that Hyatt held them unlawfully at the Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit in order to fraudulently bill insurance for alleged care and treatment that was not provided.

Hestia’s lawsuit said that she voluntarily presented herself for evaluation and potential inpatient treatment on April 9, 2022. She said she was unlawfully held against her will until April 16, 2022.

The plaintiff was initially told that she could bring her service dog with her, but during admission to the Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit, the dog was taken and Hestia was told the reasoning would be explained in a letter from “legal” that was never provided. She said staff told her that if she did not call someone to take the service dog out of the facility, they would call animal control and have the dog taken to an animal shelter.

Hestia said she was also not provided essential medications and staff refused to contact any of her medical providers. She said that unit staff also misrepresented in her medical records that she had been off all medications since 2020.

Plaintiff Heather Welch’s complaint said that she was taken by Fayetteville police to the emergency room at Washington Regional on April 7, 2021 after she had “become overwhelmed with stress and anxiety due to her efforts to open a new racquet club and made comments to her sisters that made them concerned she might hurt herself and caused them to contact the police.” After being evaluated there, she was transferred to the Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit at Northwest Medical in Springdale for further evaluation.

According to court documents, when Welch refused to sign in voluntarily, unit staff threatened
that they would “take her to court” and get a judge to order her admission for a much longer period than if she signed in voluntarily. She was never informed that she was placed on a 72-hour hold, nor was she told about her rights beyond that.

Her complaint stated that she repeatedly asked to leave, but her medical records falsely reflected that she was in the unit voluntarily. She was held there for 13 days.

“When days went by and Plaintiff still had not been seen by Dr. Hyatt, she was told that it would [be] up to the ‘providers’ to decide when she could leave and she was being held because she was not focusing on her so-called ‘therapy.’”

Heather Welch vs. Dr. Brian T. Hyatt et al, Complaint, April 7

Welch said that she was never evaluated by Hyatt at any point during her stay. She added that the only “treatment” she received was a “cursory evaluation (approximately five minutes) by a ‘provider’ approximately every other day.”

Both plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and have demanded jury trials.