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Suit seeks $2M for man’s death at Baltimore behavioral center

The family and estate of a man killed by a fellow patient last March at Baltimore Behavioral Health Systems Inc. have filed a $2 million lawsuit against the facility, claiming it allowed the assailant to return without adequate security after telling a counselor he was “going to kill someone.”

Lee McCoy II’s son and the boy’s mother, Kathy Cornish, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Friday in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The complaint also contains a negligence action by the personal representative of McCoy’s estate.

According to the complaint, two security guards were escorting McCoy, who was being treated for alcohol abuse, from the center’s West Pratt Street facility on March 3 when he got into a confrontation with Carrell Andrews.

Andrews punched McCoy in the head, sending him to the ground.

McCoy’s head hit the floor, rendering him unconscious. He was taken to the University of Maryland R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, bleeding from his mouth, nose and ears.

McCoy, 44, died the next day.

Andrews is scheduled to stand trial on March 14 for manslaughter.

The civil complaint alleges Andrews had warned a counselor of his deadly intention a day before the killing. The center sent Andrews to University of Maryland Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

The hospital released Andrews that day and he returned to BBHS.

Security at the facility was too light on March 3, despite a recent spate of violence, the plaintiffs allege.

BBHS “had a duty to safeguard Lee McCoy II and was careless in carrying out this duty,” the complaint says.

According to police reports, McCoy was being escorted from the facility due to intoxication and instigated the fight with Andrews before being punched.

“We’re not sure who started it,” said C. Justin Brown, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

“Regardless of who started the fight, the duty is upon BBHS to ensure a safe environment for its invitees,” added Brown, a solo practitioner in Baltimore. “They have to keep a secure premises. When they see trouble brewing, it is their duty to prevent it from escalating.”

Brown’s co-counsel on the complaint is C. Christopher Brown of Brown, Goldstein & Levy.

Telephone messages seeking comment from BBHS Monday were not returned.

The plaintiffs are the latest to criticize operations at the nonprofit mental health center, following an investigative series by The (Baltimore) Sun last November.

The series led to calls for state oversight from state Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Joshua Sharfstein and Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, D-Baltimore, who introduced SB 562 on Feb. 4. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said it was looking into former workers’ claims that payroll deductions are missing from their retirement accounts, the Sun reported.