Lawsuit alleges 11-year-old injured from abuse at Birmingham youth residential facility

Lawsuit alleges 11-year-old injured from abuse
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 11:38 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 12:43 PM CST
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JEFFERSON CO., Ala. (WBRC) - A lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Jefferson County against Alabama Clinical Schools; Universal Health Services (UHS); the Alabama Clinical Schools’ Director of Residential Services that alleges an 11-year-old boy was injured multiple times due to physical abuse by facility employees.

The eleven page lawsuit filed January 25 alleges the abuse happened at Alabama clinical schools, naming the Director of residential services, several employees, and its parent company universal health services.

Some of the abuse, the boy said, was recorded. “He reports the abuse to DHR, this 11-year-old boy, they investigated and confirmed he was being abused,” James said. James said the family was not seeking monetary damages but systemic change.

The following information was obtained via press release:

UHS owns and operates Alabama Clinical Schools and Hill Crest in Birmingham, as well as many residential facilities for youth across the country. The company’s website says it treated 3.2 million people last year, earning more than $12 billion in revenue. The Alabama Department of Human Resources certifies and licenses Alabama Clinical Schools.

Attorney Tommy James of Tommy James Law says facilities like Alabama Clinical Schools are a part of the “troubled teen industry,” a network of for-profit youth residential facilities where widespread abuse and neglect has been revealed. UHS is one of the largest companies operating these facilities across the country. The U.S. Senate recently began investigating companies operating these facilities, including UHS.

Birmingham, Alabama attorneys Tommy James of Tommy James Law and Jeremy Knowles of the Morris Haynes law firm represent the child’s grandmother, who is the victim’s legal guardian. Mr. James and Mr. Knowles have previously filed many lawsuits across the state representing abuse victims in similar facilities.

The lawsuit filed stems from the physical abuse inflicted by Alabama Clinical Schools’ employees on an 11-year-old child who resided in the facility for approximately six months between 2021 and 2022. The boy received multiple injuries due to employees assaulting him numerous times. He was also threatened and verbally and mentally abused by staff. The lawsuit says the child suffered from scorpion bites in his bed.

According to the lawsuit, employees assaulted the boy on at least four occasions. The suit says he was “assaulted in the head, face and neck area” by an employee and an “employee kicked and stomped him in the stomach and face.” During these assaults, the child “suffered injuries to his shoulder area, including a broken collarbone,” which was treated at Children’s Hospital. He also suffered “a black eye and bruising” from an employee attack.

The suit claims facility employees threatened to kill the child and retaliated against him for reporting the abuse to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). DHR investigated and confirmed the abuse allegations were true. The lawsuit states DHR determined there was “sufficient evidence to prove that abuse occurred to” the child.

“DHR investigated my client’s reports of abuse by these employees, and they determined he was telling the truth and that he was horribly abused by staff,” James said. “It is past time to hold this troubled company (UHS) accountable, so it will take steps to prevent the ongoing child abuse occurring in their facilities.”

Mr. James says Alabama Clinical Schools was a scary and dangerous place for his client. “My client was treated terribly by the staff who were supposed to be helping him,” James said. “They put him through hell with continuous physical, verbal and emotional abuse and then threatened to kill him for reporting their abuse.”

James said State officials are aware of these facilities’ history of mistreating residents. “The State is fully aware of the ongoing abuse in these facilities but still places children in them,” James said. “The Governor and other state officials must take action to determine why this continues. These facilities must be shut down, or our elected officials must ensure they are safe.”

James, his client, and his client’s grandmother hope this lawsuit leads to positive change.

“What happened to this child is inexcusable and should have never happened,” James said. “My client and his family hope holding the employees who abused him and the company that enabled the abuse accountable will prevent this from happening to innocent children.”

WBRC has reached out to universal health services for comment. We will update this article when we hear back.

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