Deitch & Rogers Obtains $55M Verdict in Devereux Case
Deitch & Rogers sexual assault lawyers Andrew Rogers and Kara Phillips obtained a $55 million jury verdict on behalf of a 15-year old girl who was sexually assaulted at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health. The jury also awarded attorney fees and expenses as a result of Devereux’s bad faith in the litigation in an amount to be determined by the court at a later date.
The victim, now 23 years-old, was admitted for treatment at Devereux, a behavioral health facility located in Kennesaw. While at the facility, she was sexually assaulted by 40-year-old Devereux employee Jimmy Singleterry.
On the night of the assault, Singleterry entered the underage girl’s room and had sex with her. Singleterry was subsequently arrested and is currently serving a 20-year sentence on criminal charges.
Attorney Rogers said that after the attack, Devereux “investigated and reported it, but they really did nothing to acknowledge that she had been assaulted by one of their staff people. They didn’t apologize and acted like nothing really happened.”
The girl was eventually discharged from Devereux some six weeks later after the incident.
Investigation Reveals Widespread Faults with Devereux
Further investigation revealed various shortcomings in Devereux’s policies and practices that contributed to the sexual assault. For one, the behavioral health facility’s policy states that there should be at least one female staff member present in the girls’ cottages when a male is assigned to duty.
However, on the day in question, evidence showed that the facility was short-staffed on females. Also, Singleterry’s shift ended at 11 p.m., but a female staffer left earlier at about 10:30 p.m., after Singleterry had begun having inappropriate sexual conversations with the girl.
Witness testimony from Devereux employees indicated that a supervisor routinely “turned a blind eye” to staff members who left their shifts early. These types of conditions contributed to the assault taking place.
Additionally, police reports and internet materials showed that abuse-related and other disturbing incidents have been happening in Devereux centers across the nation.
Devereux ultimately conceded that it had breached a duty of care to the sexual assault victim, but was not willing to take responsibility for paying any particular amount of damages and suggested to the jury that the harm caused by its employee was minimal. The jury found that the appropriate amount of damages necessary to compensate for the abuse was $10M and required Devereux to pay half that amount.
Long-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Expert witness testimony in the Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health case emphasized the lingering, traumatic impacts that sexual assault can have on a child. These effects continue well into adulthood and frequently affect a person’s ability to manage everyday life.
According to the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), victims of child sexual abuse are:
- Four times more likely to engage in drug abuse habits
- Four times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as adults
- Three times more likely to have a major bout of depression in adulthood
Survivors of sexual assault often experience feelings of shame and guilt, and can develop issues with intimacy. They may also develop self-esteem issues and may have flashbacks or traumatic memories.
Child sexual assault victims may:
- Have trouble with school and grades
- Exhibit signs of depression
- Express suicidal thoughts
- Run away from home or school
It’s essential to report any instances of child sexual assault that you may be aware of. Taking action can help prevent future incidents by exposing perpetrators. Legal action can also help ensure that survivors receive justice and that the assaulters are held liable for their heinous crimes.
Learning Points from the Devereux Case
Tragically, child sexual abuse often happens with someone that the child knows, such as a family member. This is one of the reasons why child sexual abuse is so traumatizing.
However, the Devereux case illustrates how sexual assault in a treatment facility can be especially troubling. The child may be in an unfamiliar environment where they are expecting to receive care and treatment, and may sometimes be separated from family and loved ones when assaulted.
Certain aspects of the sexual assault lawsuit also show how careless organizational practices and policies can enable abuse and allow it to continue unreported on a wide scale. Points to consider include:
- Behavioral health facilities can often be understaffed, leading to security, privacy, and safety issues
- Policies may be poorly written, failing to anticipate critical scenarios where abuse can occur
- Existing safety policies may be weakly enforced or implemented
- Negligent hiring of employees can lead to staff that is inexperienced or who have existing abuse backgrounds
Lastly, sexual abuse in an institutional setting is often not just the result of only one person’s failures. As in the Devereux case, it is often the actions of several employees and supervisors all acting carelessly that allow abusive conditions to exist.
It is these systemic abuses that are “built-in” to an organization that can be the most concerning and must be exposed and corrected.
An Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney Can Help You Obtain Justice
Sexual assault is a tragic offense that affects people of all ages, genders, and walks of life. Filing a report or a legal claim will hold offenders liable and will provide survivors with compensation for their losses. If you or a loved one of yours has been affected by sexual assault, know that you are not alone in your pursuit of justice.
Andrew Rogers is a former prosecutor and has served as Chair of Day League, formerly known as the DeKalb County Rape Crisis Center. The sexual abuse lawyers at Deitch & Rogers are deeply committed to helping victims obtain justice and fair compensation for what they have experienced.
We understand that assault cases require sympathy and sensitivity during challenging circumstances. Contact us at (770) 394-9000 for a fully confidential, private consultation at no cost to you.
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