OAKLAND -- A class-action lawsuit was filed against Kaiser Foundation Health Plan this month accusing the health insurance company of failing to properly treat patients with mental illness.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three named plaintiffs but seeks to represent the "thousands of other Kaiser members who have been harmed by Kaiser's systemic denial of timely access to mental health services."

The suit comes four months after the health insurance company was fined $4 million by the state Department of Managed Health Care for having "serious deficiencies" in its care of mental health patients.

Those deficiencies included an overall lack of information for mental health patients and no systemwide approach to ensure that patients suffering from mental health issues were being monitored. That lack of monitoring included Kaiser's inability to track how a patient was being treated or when.

The lawsuit filed Oct. 3 accuses Kaiser of contributing to the death of at least one patient who committed suicide and forcing at least two other patients to spend thousands of dollars on mental health care outside of Kaiser's health plan.

Deniene Erickson, regional media relations specialist for Kaiser, dismissed the lawsuit Thursday as a ploy by the National United Health Care Workers union to place Kaiser in a negative light as both sides continue a protracted labor dispute.

Erickson said the law firm that filed the lawsuit has "regularly" represented the union in the past and is not known as a firm that specializes in consumer or regulatory law.

The lawsuit was filed by Oakland-based law firm Siegel LeWitter Malkani.

"Essentially, we want them to clean up their act," said Jonathan Siegel, the attorney who filed the lawsuit.

Siegel said the lawsuit also seeks monetary damages but said the amount is unknown.