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Indiana County medical center, doctor sued

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Indiana Regional Medical Center and a doctor failed to properly treat an Indiana County man who reported having homicidal and suicidal thoughts, a civil lawsuit filed by an Armstrong County man claims.

Days later, the patient, Lewis Paul Beatty, 42, murdered his estranged wife and two daughters.

“The defendants completely ignored Mr. Beatty's ideations and also did nothing to warn his ultimate victims that they were the targets of Mr. Beatty's threats of murder,” states the lawsuit filed in Indiana County Common Pleas Court by Ronald Smail, the father of Christine Beatty, 33, and her daughters, Amanda, 11, and Sara, 6.

Lewis Beatty is serving three consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole in an Erie County state prison for the slayings on June 1, 2012.

The medical center and physician have denied any wrongdoing.

Lewis Beatty was distraught over his estranged wife seeing another man, and he sought mental health treatment in the medical center in May 2012, according the suit filed on behalf of the victims' estates.

A staff member noted in Beatty's chart that he was “having homicidal thoughts towards his wife.”

“Lewis Beatty's mental state had deteriorated to such an extent that he expressly informed the triage nurse or other member of the emergency room staff that he intended to kill himself and his wife,” the suit alleges.

Dr. Luis Tomacruz spent “no more than 26 minutes” with Beatty and discharged him within 40 minutes of Beatty's arrival with a prescription for a drug to treat anxiety, the suit states.

In preliminary objections filed with the court, attorney Thomas Anderson wrote that the defendants were “under no duty to warn nonpatient third parties of a patient's dangerous propensities” unless a “specific threat to harm a specific individual” has been made.

“The notes in Mr. Beatty's medical records refer to suicidal and homicidal thoughts, not threats,” Anderson said.

Beatty did not mention his daughters in any statements made while in the hospital, Anderson said.

The preliminary objections called Beatty's discharge without a psychiatric consult “ordinary negligence” that does not rise to the necessary level for a claim of punitive damages. The suit is seeking unspecified punitive damages.

Beatty had been seeing a family physician for about six months before the murders and after his separation from Christine Beatty.

On June 1, 2012, Lewis Beatty strangled his daughters in his South Mahoning Township home before cutting their throats with a hunting knife.

He then drove to Christine Beatty's workplace and followed her to her East Mahoning Township home, where he strangled her and slashed her throat.

He set fire to that home as well as the South Mahoning residence, then slit his wrists. He was rescued from the burning South Mahoning home.

Beatty pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in December. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty.

In a news conference following Beatty's sentencing, public defender Fred Hummel indicated that Beatty had sought help in the days before the murders by reporting homicidal and suicidal thoughts.

“Lewis tried to get help to keep him from losing control,” Hummel said.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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