FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Northwest Arkansas psychiatrist under investigation for Medicaid fraud was also named as a defendant in two lawsuits filed earlier this year alleging criminal misconduct toward patients.
Dr. Brian T. Hyatt of Rogers was informed on February 24 that his Medicaid billing privileges were suspended following allegations of fraud. Hyatt has the right to appeal the suspension within 30 calendar days of receiving notice.
According to court documents, two different plaintiffs filed lawsuits that included Hyatt among their respective defendants. Karla Adrian-Caceres filed suit on January 17 and Claire Capehart followed on February 17.
Both lawsuits were filed in the fourth circuit court, division one, in Washington County. Adrian-Caceres also named Brooke Green, Northwest Arkansas Hospitals, and 25 unnamed hospital employees as defendants.
Adrian-Caceres’ complaint stated that she is an engineering student at the University of Arkansas. The filing added that she arrived at the Northwest Medical Emergency Department after accidentally taking too many Tylenol on January 18, 2022.
The document explains that she first went to the Washington Regional Medical Center before being taken to Northwest in Springdale by ambulance. She was told “she was not going home that night.”
The plaintiff said that she was given a sedative and asked to sign consent for admission while on the way to Northwest. She said that she “signed some documents without being able to read or understand them at the time.”
The factual background portion of the lawsuit stated that Hyatt admitted the plaintiff “voluntarily” to the Behavioral Health Services Unit that day.
“Northwest employees stripped Karla completely naked and searched her body. Northwest employees took all of her possessions from her and issued underwear and a uniform.”
Karla Adrian-Caceres vs Brian T. Hyatt et al, complaint for damages with jury demand, January 17
When she asked when she could go home, Adrian-Caceres said “more than one employee told her there was a minimum stay and that if she asked to leave, they would take her to court where a judge would give her a longer stay because the judge always sides with Dr. Hyatt and Northwest.”
A Northwest staffer attempted to black out the doctor’s name on the plaintiff’s wristband, but she said that his name was still visible through the ink. She said that she was then forced to share “a cramped living space with another patient against her will.”
The plaintiff’s filing continued by stating that unit rules created by Dr. Hyatt “prohibited patients from learning the complete or real names of staff and providers” or other patients.
Other allegations in the lawsuit include being forced to disclose protected health information in front of other patients and mandatory group therapy “where no therapy actually took place.” The plaintiff’s mother drove to Northwest Arkansas from the Dallas area after her daughter called and said that she wanted to leave as soon as possible.
The plaintiff’s mother, Katty Caceres, was prohibited from seeing her daughter. She dropped off some personal items at the hospital, but the staff never gave them to her daughter.
Caceres then began demanding her daughter’s release. The lawsuit stated that Caceres spoke with five different employees, four of whom had only their first names on their badges. Each of them reportedly said that they could not help, or that the plaintiff “would be in there for some time” and that it was Hyatt’s decision regarding how long that would be.
The plaintiff’s mother then hired an attorney to help her daughter leave the facility. On January 20, 2022, the attorney faxed a letter to the hospital demanding her release.
When Caceres arrived to pick up her daughter, hospital staffers said that she was there voluntarily and they refused to release her “at the direction of Dr. Hyatt.” During a phone call later that day, the plaintiff told her mother that her status was being changed to an involuntary hold because she asked to leave.
About four hours later, a hospital employee called Caceres and informed her that the plaintiff’s calls were now restricted.
The next morning, Hyatt responded to the attorney by insulting the request for release.
About three and a half hours after Hyatt sent that email, Washington County judge Doug Martin signed a court order requiring Northwest to release the plaintiff immediately. Hyatt received a copy of the court order and was notified that noncompliance would result in a contempt of court action against him.
Caceres arrived at the facility with a copy of the order shortly after it was issued. Nurse Green, one of the other defendants in the complaint, met with her in the emergency room and refused to discharge the plaintiff.
The mother then sought assistance from Springdale police, but was still unsuccessful in securing her daughter’s release. Judge Martin amended his order that afternoon, instructing the Washington County Sheriff to enforce the release of the patient.
The complaint stated that on that day, Hyatt went to the plaintiff’s room and threatened her with 45 days in the facility through a court order and he “told her to have her lawyer drop everything.” He reportedly added that he and the hospital would “see her lawyer in court” and that “when she lost in court she would never be able to get a good job.”
Immediately after that, two staff members entered her room. Adrian-Caceres thought she was being released, but she was taken to another floor of the hospital and injected with a sedative. She was told that she would be restrained if she resisted.
Washington County sheriff’s deputies arrived at approximately 3:30 p.m. Staff “attempted to intimidate Karla into staying longer” in the presence of those deputies.
The deputies escorted her from the hospital about 15 minutes later. The plaintiff had taken detailed notes with names, dates, times and events from during her stay, but those notes were “mysteriously missing from her room just before sheriff deputies arrived.”
Hyatt acknowledged receipt of the court order and said that she was placed on an involuntary hold at 4:55 p.m. the day before, January 20, 2022. According to the lawsuit, this was hours after he received the letter demanding her release and less than an hour after her mother arrived to attempt to pick her up.
On January 22, 2022, Hyatt sent another condescending email to the plaintiff’s attorney.
“In nearly 10 years of legal practice, I have not received correspondence like this from anyone else, much less from a doctor whom I had never met,” said attorney Aaron Cash of Hyatt’s emails.
The lawsuit stated that it believes Dr. Hyatt is no longer affiliated with the Northwest Behavioral Health Unit. Counts one through four of Adrian-Caceres’ complaint are for false imprisonment, and count five is a civil conspiracy of false imprisonment charge against all defendants.
Similar counts, against individuals and against all defendants for conspiracy, are made on charges of battery, outrage and assault. They allege, among other things, “extreme and outrageous conduct” including “physical, mental and emotional harm in an amount to be proven at trial.”
Adrian-Caceres’ complaint demands “a jury trial on all relief.”
The second lawsuit was filed by Claire Capehart of Plano, Texas, on February 17 and it also alleges disturbing behavior by Hyatt and the other defendants. Her complaint began by explaining that she had been experiencing chest pains on March 24, 2022.
According to the filing, she went to Siloam Springs Medical Center at approximately 10:30 p.m. that day. She was examined by staff to rule out cardiac problems.
The complaint said that she was then questioned by hospital staff about her medical history, stressors, anxiety and “whether she had suicidal ideation.” The plaintiff told Hyatt that she had been treated for anxiety and had recent thoughts of suicide, but that she would never follow through on them.
Hyatt informed her that he would have to conduct an evaluation of her mental health before she could go home. She asked that it be conducted there, but the doctor refused and she was transported to the Behavioral Health Facility at Northwest the next day.
Capehart was taken to a pre-admit room and had her vitals checked. She was then instructed to disrobe by hospital personnel “for further assessment.”
The plaintiff said that she “was examined from head to toe” before being given scrubs. Her clothes and belongings were taken from her.
She explained that she was only there for a mental evaluation and was told that she would not be evaluated until she slept. Capehart was then escorted to her room.
The complaint alleges that the plaintiff was then surrounded by three nurses and three other staffers at approximately 6:00 a.m. They woke her up, told her to turn onto her stomach and was then “given a shot of an unknown medication that made her groggy.”
She said she remained groggy for the remainder of that day and the next. On March 27, Capehart was no longer groggy and wanted to contact her family.
Hospital staff initially refused to let her contact anyone before allowing her to contact her mother, Sherri Kahrs. The plaintiff told her mother that she wanted to leave the hospital.
On March 28, Capehart said that staff refused to talk to her family members in the waiting room about her post-discharge care. She added that she never saw a doctor for an evaluation and received no treatment aside from group therapy and medication.
On March 29, Kahrs arrived at the emergency room with a letter from Capehart’s attorney. Staff didn’t inform her that her mother was there and she reportedly found out by seeing her through a window and then “banging on the window to get her mother’s attention.”
The complaint stated that hospital staff then began yelling at the plaintiff and pulled her into an exam room, where she was questioned about why her mother was at the hospital. When she asked to see her mother, she was told that she had left.
“Capehart emerged from the exam room to find a charge nurse waving the letter from the plaintiff’s attorney, reportedly laughing, shouting ‘this legal stuff doesn’t work here.’ Her phone privileges were immediately revoked and she was unable to contact her family.”
Capehart vs. Brian T. Hyatt et al, complaint for damages with jury demand, February 17
Several hours later, her husband, Aaron Capehart, called the patient phone on the unit and asked to speak to his wife. A nurse agreed to allow it “but only if a nurse was in the room during the call.”
He told his wife that her mother had been escorted out of the building. He also said that those police officers were told that the plaintiff had asked to stay at the hospital and didn’t want to see her mother.
She explained to her husband that this was not true, and that she had asked to leave multiple times and had specifically requested to see her mother. After that phone call, her phone privileges were completely revoked.
Two staff members then told the plaintiff that she was a liar and had been deemed “gravely disabled” by hospital employees. On March 30, the plaintiff’s mother filed a lawsuit against Northwest and her daughter was finally released, but not until escorted by a sheriff’s deputy with a court order in hand.
The lawsuit noted that Capehart was kept for three days after her 72-hour involuntary hold expired. After being released, she consulted her primary care doctor, who revealed that Hyatt had sent 45 pages of notes alleging that she was “unkept and unstable.”
Capehart said that she never met Dr. Hyatt. A nursing assessment called her “pleasant” and observed that she was “kept, stable, and had no thoughts or intentions of self harm.”
The lawsuit filed for counts of false imprisonment, battery, outrage, assault and conspiracy against the defendants, including Hyatt. Her filing concluded by noting that she is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and that she demands a jury trial.
On March 1, Hyatt sent a message to the Arkansas State Medical Board resigning as chair.
“I would like to step aside as Chairman and move to a non-executive committee, voting member of the ASMB until standing issues resolve,” he wrote. “This is only out of respect for the board’s mission and ensuring good care for Arkansans.”
Hyatt was appointed as a congressional district member of the board by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2019 and was elected vice chair of the state medical board in 2022.