On March 28, 2022, Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued two Orders denying virtually all of the defendants’ motions to dismiss individual claims in lawsuits filed against The Devereux Foundation/Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health and Quality Health Staffing over allegations that the plaintiffs suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse while in Devereux’s care at behavioral health facilities across the United States. In addition to the negligence-based claims, Title IX, and state statutory claims, the Court’s Orders upheld the validity of plaintiffs’ individual claims for assault and battery on a vicarious liability theory, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“This is a huge win for our clients,” stated Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin, who filed the case with co-counsel from Sauder Schelkopf. “The only thing more horrifying than the nature of the offenses against patients uncovered here is their breadth. This callous and destructive treatment of the most-vulnerable among us needs to be stopped, and our plaintiff-clients are grateful that the Court saw the current lawsuit as the most powerful and efficient means to bring about justice and change.”
With dismissal roundly rejected by Judge Brody, the cases will move forward through discovery and on to trial. (Class claims seeking injunctive relief in the form of powerful institutional reforms are the subject of a separate motion to dismiss, fully briefed but not yet argued before the Court.)
“We are very pleased with today’s order from the Court and are eager to move the case forward,” states attorney Joe Sauder of Sauder Schelkopf. “Our clients have been empowered to speak about their mistreatment as vulnerable children entrusted to Devereux’s care, and we look forward to making sure their voices will finally be heard.”
History of the Devereux Abuse Cases
Lieff Cabraser, Sauder Schelkopf, and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin filed these lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of children exposed to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse while in the care of The Devereux Foundation (d/b/a Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health) along with its staffing company Quality Health Staffing, LLC. Through 21 facilities across 13 states, each year Devereux takes on responsibility for protecting more than 25,000 of our country’s most vulnerable members: children with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and specialty mental health needs, including youth in the child welfare system. As the complaints allege, instead of fulfilling its promise and solemn responsibility to protect these vulnerable individuals, Devereux instead exposed them to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by failing to enact or enforce safety measures and other policies to protect them.
The complaints detail numerous incidents of abuse against children in the care of Devereux, including batteries, sexual offenses, emotional abuse, and rape. In August 2020, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists at the Philadelphia Inquirer released a devastating report detailing decades of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse inflicted upon these especially vulnerable children by Devereux staff members. The report reveals that “[a]t least 41 children as young as 12, and with IQs as low as 50, have been raped or sexually assaulted by Devereux staff members in the last 25 years.”
The plaintiffs brought the lawsuits to hold Devereux accountable for the harm it has caused and to prevent this devastating abuse from happening to anyone else in Devereux’s care.
Annika K. Martin
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP