Trial starting in psych. hospital death

FOX UNDERCOVER - A teenage girl who died in a psychiatric hospital because of complications from an untreated brain tumor is heading to trial Tuesday in a case that's expected to spotlight what the girl's mother says is understaffing at the for-profit care center.

"There is no reason for her to be dead now. Whatsoever. Especially at the age of 14. It's not right," Theresa Payne, mother of Monique Payne, told FOX Undercover in 2007. "Her life is gone. For no reason."

Monique died in 2006 at the Westwood Lodge. She had been complaining for four days about headaches and showed signs that her condition was deteriorating. By the time hospital staff called 911, she had stopped breathing and turned blue, court records show.

"They ignored all her cries. She was asking and telling them my head is killing me. I need to go to the doctors," her mother said.

It was no secret that Monique had a brain tumor. It had been inactive for years. But for some reason it started to cause swelling in the brain which, left untreated, led to her death.

Whether staff at the for-profit hospital should have acted sooner will now be the focus of a trial starting Tuesday in Essex Superior Court.

Whatever the outcome, Monique's death wasn't the only problem at the for-profit hospital, the 2007 FOX Undercover investigation showed.

One month before she died, an 18-year-old patient committed suicide, hanging himself from an air vent.

Another patient sued after having sexual relations with two Westwood Lodge workers. She wrote in her journal, "I felt so ashamed of myself after and I just started crying…God help me."

In Monique's case, her attorneys say in court records that understaffing is partly to blame for her death. One worker testified in a deposition that the adolescent unit where Payne was a patient was frequently understaffed.

"Sometimes it would feel like it was (understaffed) too often," the worker said.

Payne's attorneys were well aware of those other problems.

"We are concerned that the care and treatment is not of the level that it should be and in Monique's case it exemplifies the problems we are seeing," attorney Andrew Meyer said in 2007.

Attorneys for both sides declined to comment for this story. Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday morning, with opening statements likely to be heard Wednesday.