Judge Anita Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has granted plaintiffs’ motion to compel defendant Devereux Foundation to produce certain records related to alleged abuse at behavioral health facility the Devereux Foundation. Judge Brody held that letting Pennsylvania state law take precedence over federal law would create a “worringly” broad privilege behind which defendants could conceal evidence relevant to the charges of abuse against children in Devereux care. The ruling comes as lawsuits nationwide pile up against Devereux Foundation over reported abuse throughout its facilities, with hundreds of suits filed across the country in state and federal courts.
The Pennsylvania case seeks both damages for the individually named plaintiffs and injunctive relief to protect the putative class of Deveraux patients over allegations that they are “subjected to the unnecessary (and foreseeable) risk of physical, emotional, and sexual assault caused by Devereux’s failure to have and/or enforce proper policies and procedures for the prevention of, and proper response to, such abuse.” The case is proceeding through discovery and on to trial.
Noting that defendants’ protestations about privacy concerns were a non-issue, Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin, who represents the plaintiffs in the litigation, stated, “We’re just interested in incidents of prior abuse that have occurred and specifically how Deverux has handled them, if it has handled them at all. What were their practices and policies to prevent such abuse, if such policies existed? And what are they doing to prevent the abuse of children in the future? This information is critical to getting our clients the justice — and the relief — they are seeking.”
Martin added that plaintiffs’ attorneys are focused on drilling down specific policy changes that need to be made by Devereux to stop future abuse from happening.
About Annika K. Martin
A partner in Lieff Cabraser’s New York office and the Chair of the firm’s Survivor’s Rights practice group, Annika K. Martin served as co-lead counsel for plaintiff abuse victims in the USC student sexual abuse lawsuit that led to a $215 million settlement with USC and Dr. Tyndall and significant institutional changes. She is currently representing men who were sexually abused as students by University of Michigan physician Robert Anderson as well as children who allege they were abused while in the care of Devereux Foundation.