Two lawsuits filed against Unity Center by patients and family members

Discharged Portland patient, found handcuffed and shivering in ambulance bay, plans to sue Unity psychiatric hospital

Oregonian – November 23, 2020

An attorney for a man ordered out of Portland’s psychiatric hospital a year ago and left handcuffed in the ambulance bay while police were called has filed a notice of intent to sue Unity Center for Behavioral Health.

Attorney Christine Mascal alleges the center was negligent in not caring for her client, Paul Khouri, committed assault and battery and caused him emotional distress.

“Instead of continuing to address and treat Khouri’s fragile mental state, Unity simply ‘dumped’ him outside their doors,” Mascal wrote. “The disregard and contempt that Unity and its employees exercised against Paul Khouri is disgraceful and despicable.”

The notice was mailed to Unity Center on Friday.

Sarah Ericksen, a spokeswoman for Unity operator Legacy Health, declined comment Monday, citing a policy not to discuss pending litigation.

On Nov. 26, 2019, two days before Thanksgiving, Kouri was a patient at Unity after experiencing a mental health crisis, according to his lawyer. Shortly after he was admitted, he got into an altercation with a therapist and the center made him leave in an encounter that The Oregonian/OregonLive reported last year.

Khouri, now 49, was dressed in a T-shirt, shorts but no shoes and socks.

“Confused, cold and disoriented, Khouri wandered around the grounds of Unity until he caught the attention of security,” the tort claim notice says.

Security officers at Unity called 911 to have Khouri removed from the property. When Portland police arrived, they found Khouri handcuffed, sitting near the emergency ambulance bay and shivering in the 40-degree air.

Police declined to take Khouri into custody. They informed security officers that they don’t pick up people on detox holds from private property and that it was clear the man was in a mental health crisis. The officers also didn’t believe the security assessment that Khouri had taken crystal methamphetamine or that he needed to go to a detox facility.

Security officers then urged police to arrest the man for trespassing on hospital property or for kicking a parked car. Police saw no property damage and no evidence of a crime and refused to make an arrest. Security staff then told police that Khouri had assaulted a therapist in the center.

Police learned from the therapist that an altercation had occurred but no one was assaulted, Mascal wrote.

Police called Project Respond, a nonprofit mobile mental health crisis team, which sent two crisis professionals to the scene.

After nearly two hours had passed, as Project Respond and police discussed whether to put a mental health hold on the man and have him taken to another hospital, a psychiatrist from Unity emerged and agreed that Khouri should be returned to the center and treated.

At the time, the managing attorney for Disability Rights Oregon’s Mental Health Rights Project praised police for challenging the security guards’ push to have the former patient taken to jail.

Khouri, according to court records, had four prior, unrelated criminal trespass charges pending against him earlier in 2019 and other fourth-degree assault and criminal mischief charges. All those charges ultimately were dismissed.

On Dec. 10, 2019, a Multnomah County judge ordered Khouri sent to the Oregon State Hospital for an evaluation to determine if he could assist his lawyer in one of the unrelated cases. Khouri remained at the hospital, declared unable to assist in his own defense, and then was held on a civil commitment order until early last month.

Mother of 18-year-old who died sues Unity Center for $13 million

Oregonian – January 26, 2021

The mother of a Portland teen who died by suicide two days after medical staff allegedly evaluated and released him from the Unity Center for Behavioral Health has filed a $13 million lawsuit against two of the organizations that operate the center.

Leila Mesch’s lawsuit lists Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University as defendants, alleging they are negligent for the death of her 18-year-old son, Jacob Mesch.

Legacy Health spokesman Brian Terrett declined comment because of the pending litigation, saying the health system was aware of the case.

OHSU spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley declined comment, too, citing patient privacy laws. “OHSU extends its sincere condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Mesch. We are a community of healers and the passing of a patient is distressing to us all,” she wrote in an email.

According to the lawsuit, Leila Mesch discovered her son was planning to jump from the Fremont Bridge at about midnight on Sept. 2, 2019. She spoke to him by phone and convinced him to let her drive him to the Unity Center, where he was admitted at 2:19 a.m., according to the suit.

“Upon admission, Jacob Mesch was antagonistic, confrontational and refused to engage with the treatment team in addition to demanding to be released,” the lawsuit states.

A doctor who evaluated him determined that he was an imminent risk to himself, the suit states. Jacob Mesch told staff that he had been thinking about suicide and experiencing increasing depression beginning about five months earlier, and that he’d recently broken up with his girlfriend, according to the suit.

The suit states that after another doctor evaluated Mesch and the teen agreed to out-patient therapy, Unity discharged him at 12:18 p.m. — about 10 hours after he’d been admitted.

Jacob Mesch killed himself two days later.

The suit was filed last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Portland attorney John Coletti is representing the teen’s estate.

Obituary – Jacob Latif Mesch

Dec. 14, 2000 – Sept. 4, 2019link to obit

Jacob Mesch - 2000-2019

Jacob Mesch – 2000-2019

Jacob Latif Mesch was born Dec. 14, 2000 to loving parents Leila Hotaki Mesch and Andrew Orwar Mesch, Jr., within minutes of his twin sister Kira Helen Mesch. A beloved son, brother, neighbor and friend, Jacob lived in Portland and graduated from Chapman Elementary, West Sylvan and Lincoln High Schools.
Jacob adored birds, fishing and books, and shared his passions widely. A determined athlete, he was a top shot put and discus thrower. But more importantly, Jacob was a mentor on the team, full of brotherly love for his Lincoln teammates.

Jacob was all about people. He was sensitive, empathetic and kind, even to his sister (most of the time). He was funny, genuinely interested in people and had a wonderful ability to put people at ease. Jacob will be remembered as loving, full of life, enthusiastic, charismatic, loyal and a natural leader.
Jacob’s family wants the world to know how much he was loved and how much he will be missed. In addition to his parents and sister, Jacob is survived by his aunts, Anne Mesch, Joan Heather and Mari Hotaki; uncles, Denis Heather and Kevin Mesch; grandparents, Jana Hutcheson and Latif Hotaki; and numerous cousins.

Join the Celebration of Life at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, at the New Song Community Church. Donations to the Portland Audubon Society or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Share your memories and photos of Jacob at: