Potomac Center abuse suit filed for 17-year-old - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Potomac Center abuse suit filed for 17-year-old

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By MARLA PISCIOTTA

For The State Journal

A lawsuit filed against the Potomac Center April 7 in Hampshire County Circuit Court alleges abuse against a 17-year-old former resident and says the facility failed to supervise its employees.

The complaint filed by Bailey and Glasser on behalf of R.M., a minor, by his parent, says the action comes from abuse that was directed toward R.M. and other residents of the Potomac Center.

In addition the suit says the Potomac Center Inc.'s alleged mission was to provide residential assistance and support to children and adults with developmental disabilities, and a criminal investigation revealed certain agents and employees of the Potomac Center Inc., were abusing the residents, including plaintiff R.M. The alleged abuse is the direct result of the Potomac Center's failure to supervise its employees, the suit claims.

R.M. is developmentally disabled 17-year-old who lived at the Potomac Center between Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 17, 2014. During that time R.M. suffered known acts of physical and emotional abuse.

Allegations include an incident when R.M., while bathing, got soap in the eyes. The employee put his or her foot on R.M's chest and sprayed water in R.M.'s eyes.

In addition the complaint alleges that R.M. uses a gait belt, which keeps R.M. from falling when there is a seizure.

"He was taking a shower and certain John or Jane Does employed by the defendant put a sheet through the belt, wrapped the sheet around the shower head, hoisted him off the floor, spun him around, and threatened to hit him.

Another alleged offense reads that R.M. wears a soft helmet to protect a head injury if a seizure or fall should occur. Certain John or Jane Does, employed by the center, nailed the helmet on the wall while R.M. was wearing it.

The parents were informed on or about Jan. 17 that the Potomac Center was being closed and instructed to pick up R.M.

Allegations in the complaint explain that the plaintiff R.M. seeks relief pursuant to Rule 23 of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure on behalf of all persons who were residents at the Potomac Center.

"A class action is a superior method for the fair and efficient adjudication of this particular claim and controversy," the document states.

The claim states the Potomac Center is in violation of West Virginia Code 5-11-1 and has committed unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability, in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act, W.V. Code 5-11-9. It also alleges negligent failure to hire, train and supervise staff to prevent abuses that occurred at the Potomac Center and further states the center employees breached the duty of care when they failed to prevent abuses.

Allegations of an intentional infliction of emotional distress are listed stating the Potomac Center employees intentionally and recklessly caused R.M. to suffer intense emotional distress through the abuses, including assault and battery-saying the defendants intended to cause harmful and offensive contact, or apprehension of such contact, with R.M.

The plaintiff is asking for relief of actual damages, compensatory damages, emotional distress and annoyance and inconvenience, punitive and exemplary damages, attorney fees and costs, and any other relief which is deemed fair and just by the court.

The plaintiff is also demanding a trial by jury. Isaac R. Forman, attorney for the plaintiff said April 7 he had no comment regarding the case. Twenty-four children were taken from the Potomac Center campus January 16 and 17. The West Virginia State Police said as many as 12, ages 7 to 17 out of the 24 removed from the center were victims of abuse, and potentially 10 suspects were identified. The state police have said the investigation continues.