Lieff Cabraser and Sauder Schelkopf Announce Filing of Class Action Sexual Abuse Lawsuit on Behalf of Nation’s Most Vulnerable Children Against Devereux Foundation | Business


On June 14, 2021, Lieff Cabraser and Sauder Schelkopf submitted on behalf of children who are in the care of the Devereux Foundation (d / b / a Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health) together with its personnel services provider QualityHealth Staffing, LLC. In 21 facilities in 13 states, Devereux takes responsibility each year for protecting more than 25,000 of our country’s most vulnerable members: children with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and special mental health needs, including adolescents in the child care system. As the complaint alleges, instead of fulfilling its promise and solemn responsibility to protect these vulnerable individuals, Devereux has instead exposed them to physical, emotional and sexual abuse by harboring and failing to house predators and abusers in its employees, or by taking safety measures and enforce other policies to protect them.

The complaint describes hundreds of cases of abuse against children in Devereux’s care, including batteries, sexual offenses, emotional abuse and rape. In August 2020, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a devastating report of decades of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse inflicted on these vulnerable children by Devereux employees. The report shows that “at least 41 children aged 12 and over with an IQ of only 50 have been raped or sexually abused by Devereux employees in the past 25 years”.

After the Inquirer’s August 2020 report was released, another 13 former Devereux students came forward with allegations of sexual abuse they had experienced. These children were only 8 years old when they were sexually abused. Twelve of the children were allegedly molested at a Pennsylvania Devereux facility and one at a Delaware Devereux facility. Seven of these children reportedly complained to Devereux employees or a social worker during the abuse, but their complaints were ignored and the abuse continued.

Plaintiffs are bringing the lawsuit to hold Devereux accountable for the damage it has caused and to prevent this devastating abuse from happening to anyone in Devereux’s care.

“More frightening than the type of criminal offenses against children revealed here is only their breadth,” remarked Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin, who represents the plaintiff and the group in the lawsuit. “This callous and destructive treatment of children must obviously be stopped, and our plaintiff clients believe that class action lawsuits are the most powerful and efficient means of bringing about justice and change for these children.”

Devereux is a private behavioral health organization that operates 21 locations in 13 states and treats more than 25,000 children and young adults with advanced behavioral, intellectual, developmental and mental health needs annually. Devereux facilities and programs include inpatient treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, residential groups, assisted living communities, schools, special education centers and outpatient programs.

Devereux receives regular state and federal funding including: Florida legislature funding to expand its commercial program for the sexual exploitation of children in Devereux, Florida; Funding from “a combination of contracts and private foundations and government grants, including the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs” for Devereux’s Center for Effective Schools (a nonprofit research and education center that is a division of the Devereux Institute of Clinical and Professional Training and research); Pennsylvania Department of Education grants to develop programs for Devereux CARES, which is licensed as an Approved Private School; and a $ 40.2 million contract from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement to accommodate migrant youth in Devereux facilities in five states.

“This is a class action lawsuit for political negligence by Devereux that unnecessarily exposes all of its patients – including the aforementioned plaintiff – to heightened risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse,” added Sauder-Shelkopf partner Joseph Sauder, who also worked with the plaintiff Legal proceedings represent fit. “This increased risk also manifested itself in the abuse of the plaintiff and other Devereux patients, and Devereux exacerbated that trauma by improperly responding to that abuse.”

The lawsuit asserts claims that include negligence, negligent recruitment, negligent restraint, negligent supervision, gross negligence, vicarious liability, bodily harm and bodily harm, negligent infliction of emotional stress, deliberate infliction of emotional stress and breach of duty of loyalty, and also requests cease and desist as just Discharge. The requested injunctive relief includes the implementation of strict recruitment and selection protocols; robust sexual reactivity training, increased surveillance, revised guidelines for staff-patient interaction, compliance with visibility requirements, and improved surveillance infrastructure.

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CONTACT: Joseph G. Sauder


1109 Lancaster Avenue

Berwyn, PA 19312

Tel: (610) 200-0581

Fax: (610) 421-1326 Annika K. Martin


250 Hudson Street, 8th floor

New York, NY 10013

Phone: (212) 355-9500

Fax: (212) 355-9592



SOURCE: Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP

Copyright Business Wire 2021.

PUB: 6/14/2021 2:20 p.m. / DISC: 6/14/2021 2:21 p.m.

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