PHILADELPHIA – On January 11, 2023, Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued an order that denied the entirety of the defendants’ motions to dismiss the class action lawsuit filed against The Devereux Foundation/Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health and Quality Health Staffing. The case seeks both damages for the individually named plaintiffs and injunctive relief to protect the putative class of Deveraux patients across the United States 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.” With defendants’ attempt at dismissal rejected by Judge Brody, the case will move forward through discovery and on to trial.
“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. “We are seeking court-approved injunctive relief requiring Devereux to, among other things, implement and enforce policies and practices to prevent future incidents of abuse.”
The Court’s ruling states in part that the Plaintiffs “continue to suffer from the systemic deficiencies in Devereux’s hiring, retention, supervision, and incident response policies alleged in the [complaint]. They need not wait to be victimized further to seek forward-looking relief.” The Court further states that “plaintiff’s alleged injury is that they live in an environment with policies that expose them to an ongoing risk of abuse. Devereux’s policies are one cause of that alleged injury, and it cannot avoid this fact by hiding behind the actions of third parties – third parties, it bears noting, who are hired and supervised by Devereux pursuant to the policies recounted in the [complaint].”
“The child-victims in this case are extremely gratified by Judge Brody’s clear and powerful opinion confirming their right to stand up and seek changes at Devereux so this kind of abuse can never happen to them – or anyone else – again,” stated partner Annika K. Martin, from Lieff Cabraser.
Lieff Cabraser and Sauder Schelkopf recently served as court appointed class counsel in the landmark class action settlement between students and the University of Michigan. This settlement will lead to the creation and implementation of best-in-class, institutional reforms that address and prevent sexual misconduct, add transparency and new voices into the University’s response to sexual misconduct, and help ensure a safer campus environment. At the final approval hearing federal Judge Victoria Roberts called the settlement an “outstanding outcome” that she hopes is emulated around the country. Judge Roberts further stated, “I am proud to be a part of this and approve the settlement.”
Sauder Schelkopf, Lieff Cabraser, and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin filed the Devereux 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. 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.
Sauder Schelkopf has a nationally recognized litigation practice. The firm currently serves as court-appointed lead counsel in courts across the country. The attorneys at Sauder Schelkopf have recovered over $500 million on behalf of their clients and class members. Our firm was recognized by the Legal Intelligencer’s 2022 Professional Excellence Awards. The Legal Intelligencer’s Professional Excellence Awards honor Pennsylvania law firms and attorneys who have made a significant, positive impact on the legal profession. Our firm was named in the Litigation Departments of the Year (Specialty Area category; runner-up), an award that honors the best litigation practice in a small or mid-sized firm in Pennsylvania. This recognition was based on the firm’s 2021 litigation work and its important ongoing cases. LawDragon has recognized our attorneys in its list of the “500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers” for 2022. This list notes: “From the opioid epidemic to toxic substances and defective products, truck accidents to wildfires and sexual abuse, these are the lawyers who stand on the front line in individual lawsuits and class actions seeking justice.” Mr. Schelkopf was named to Pennsylvania’s Best Lawyers® 2022 for Class Actions/Mass Tort Litigation. The American Lawyer named Mr. Sauder to its 2021 Northeast Trailblazers. The honor recognizes 60 lawyers who are “truly agents of change.” It “recognizes professionals in the Northeast who have moved the needle in the legal industry.” The Legal Intelligencer named Mr. Sauder and Mr. Schelkopf in its 2020 Pennsylvania Trailblazers list recognizing 31 lawyers who “have taken extra measures to contribute to positive outcomes . . . and who are truly agents of change.” The Legal highlighted the firm’s innovative work on advocacy as class counsel in large institutional sex abuse cover-ups, women’s, and children’s rights. Our attorneys have also consistently been recognized by their peers being named to Pennsylvania SuperLawyer, a distinction held by the top 5% of attorneys in Pennsylvania. Our attorneys have also been selected by the National Trial Lawyers Association as the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Pennsylvania.
- We currently represent numerous individuals whose rights were violated while they were detained in a juvenile detention facility. Sauder Schelkopf and co-counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of former students of The Glen Mills Schools who allege that they were physically and mentally abused while attending the School.
- In Allison, et al. v. The GEO Group, Mr. Sauder served as co-lead counsel and achieved a $2.9 million settlement on behalf of pretrial detainees whose civil rights were violated at the Delaware County prison.
- In Kurian v. County of Lancaster, Mr. Sauder served as co-lead counsel and achieved a $2.5 million settlement in this civil rights class action lawsuit on behalf of pretrial detainees.
- Sauder Schelkopf, and co-counsel, recently reached a $215 million settlement on behalf of female patients of Dr. George Tyndall, a gynecologist at the University of Southern California accused of sexual misconduct since the 1990s.
- We have represented survivors of clergy sexual abuse in dioceses throughout the country.
- We have a lawsuit pending on behalf of males who were victims of sexual misconduct by Dr. Richard Strauss, the Ohio State team doctor, while they were students and student-athletes at Ohio State University.
- We recently announced a landmark class action settlement in which the University of Michigan agreed to “major institutional reforms.” It was alleged that UofM longtime employment of a predatory former sports doctor evidenced a toxic environment where students face an increased risk of sexual violence in violation of Title IX. The settlement comes after widespread allegations by over 1000 survivors of sexual misconduct by Dr. Robert E. Anderson, former director of University Health Service, and a former athletic team physician, who worked at the University of Michigan from 1968 until his retirement in 2003.
We Want to Hear from You
If you are a survivor of physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, you can confidentially contact the lawyers at Sauder Schelkopf by filling out the form on this page or calling 888.711.9975