Lawyers for an 11-year-old boy are suing a behavioral facility in Birmingham, alleging the boy was repeatedly abused during treatment and even bitten by scorpions in his bed.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Jefferson County against Alabama Clinical Schools, ACS, Universal Health Services, the director of residential services for Alabama Clinical Schools.
Attorneys Tommy James and Jeremy Knowles filed the lawsuit on behalf of the boy, identified only as MC in court records, and his grandmother.
The lawyers have filed previous lawsuits against other youth treatment facilities they say are part of a “troubled teenage industry,” a network of for-profit youth housing facilities that have exposed widespread abuse and neglect.
UHS owns and operates the Alabama Clinical Schools and Hill Crest in Birmingham, as well as many youth residential facilities across the country, James said.
Attempts to reach ACS for comment have been unsuccessful. UHS declined to comment.
The Fortune 500 company’s website says it treated 3.2 million people and generated more than $12 billion in revenue last year.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources certifies and licenses the Alabama Clinical Schools located on Alton Drive.
According to ACS’s website, the facility offers inpatient treatment and care programs for children ages nine to 18 who are struggling with mental health issues, behavioral issues, and sexually reactive behaviors.
MC was born in 2011 and suffered from behavioral issues. Human resources brought the boy to ACS on December 15, 2021, where he received treatment for six months.
“My client was treated terribly by the staff who were supposed to be helping him,” James said. “They sent him through hell with constant physical, verbal and emotional abuse and then threatened to kill him for reporting their abuse.”
The lawsuit alleges that MC sustained multiple injuries as a result of assaults by employees.
“He was also threatened by staff and verbally and psychologically abused,” James said.
The lawsuit states the child suffered scorpion bites in his bed.
On January 17, 2022, MC was attacked by an ACS employee, according to the lawsuit. He suffered shoulder injuries, including a broken collarbone.
The boy was treated at the Children’s of Alabama and underwent physical therapy.
Just days later, on January 23, 2022, MC was attacked in the head, face and neck by an employee, the lawsuit states.
Then, on March 2, 2022, he was attacked again by an employee who “kicked and stomped on him in the stomach and face.”
MC was released from the facility on June 10, 2022. Before his release, the lawsuit says, the boy was attacked by employees and other residents. He suffered a black eye and bruises.
The lawsuit alleges employees at the facility threatened to kill the child and retaliated against him for reporting the abuse to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
James produced a letter from the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources, which said, “The agency has found sufficient evidence to prove that the child was physically abused. The case was closed as indicated.
“DHR investigated my client’s reports of abuse by these employees and found that he was telling the truth and was terribly abused by employees,” James said. “It’s time to hold this ailing company (UHS) accountable so they will take action to prevent the ongoing child abuse in their facilities.”
James said state officials are aware of the history of mistreatment of residents at these facilities.
“The state is fully aware of the ongoing abuse at these facilities, but still places children there,” James said. “The governor and other state officials need to take action to determine why this is continuing. These facilities must be closed or our elected officials must ensure they are safe.”
James, his client and his client’s grandmother hope the lawsuit will lead to positive changes.
“What happened to that child is inexcusable and should never have happened,” James said. “My client and his family hope that the employees who abused him and the company that facilitated the abuse will be held accountable to prevent this from happening to innocent children.”
The victim’s attorneys are seeking help from those with information on the case. Please contact Tommy James at [email protected] or 334-224-2496.