June 2, 2022: Sauder Schelkopf, Lieff Cabraser, and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin filed a new lawsuit on behalf of five abuse survivors who have recently come forward alleging they were exposed to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse while in the care of The Devereux Foundation (d/b/a Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health) along with its staffing company QualityHealth Staffing, LLC. Every year Devereux takes on responsibility for protecting more than 25,000 of America’s most vulnerable children in 21 facilities across 13 states: children with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and specialty mental health needs, including youths in the child welfare system. The new Complaint, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges “Instead of fulfilling its promise and solemn responsibility to protect these vulnerable youth, Devereux exposed them to predators and abusers. Devereux failed to enact safety measures and other policies to protect children; failed to adequately screen, hire, train, and supervise staff; and failed to fulfill its duties under state and federal law.”
The Complaint details the abuse against children in the care of Devereux. In August 2020, 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 revealed that “at 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.”
After the Inquirer’s August 2020 report was published, an additional 13 former Devereux students came forward with allegations of sexual abuse they experienced. These children were as young as 8 years old when they were allegedly sexually abused. Twelve of the children were allegedly abused in Pennsylvania Devereux facilities, and one was abused in a Delaware Devereux facility. Seven of those children reportedly complained to Devereux staff or a social worker while the abuse was happening, but their complaints were ignored, and the abuse continued.
The most recent five abuse survivors accuse Devereux of fostering sexual abuse and bring this lawsuit to hold Devereux accountable for the harm it caused them, and also to try to prevent this ongoing and devastating abuse from happening to anyone else in Devereux’s care.
Devereux is a private behavioral health organization that operates 21 campuses in 13 states, annually treating more than 25,000 children and young adults with advanced behavioral, intellectual, developmental, and mental health needs. Included among Devereux’s facilities and programs are residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, group homes, supported living communities, schools, special education centers, and outpatient programs.
Devereux regularly receives state and federal funding, examples of which include: funding from the Florida legislature to expand Devereux Florida’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Program; funding from “a combination of contracts and private foundation and government grants, including the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs” for Devereux’s Center for Effective Schools (a non-profit research and training center which is a division of Devereux Institute of Clinical and Professional Training and Research); grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop programs for Devereux CARES, which has been licensed as an “Approved Private School”; and a $40.2 million contract from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to house migrant youth at Devereux facilities in five states.
The lawsuit advances claims that include negligence, negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, gross negligence, assault and battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of fiduciary duty.
Sauder Schelkopf has a nationally recognized sexual misconduct 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 attorneys have been recognized by LawDragon 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 Mr. Sauder’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 our 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