LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. — A lawsuit filed against a Lawrence County youth treatment facility claims staff and residents at the facility repeatedly abused and neglected a boy who needed mental health treatment.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Lawrence County Circuit Court claims Sequel TSI of Alabama has a history of staff physically abusing children at its facilities, encouraging fights among children and bullying and intimidation of children by staff and other residents of its homes.
The lawsuit, which also names the Courtland facility’s executive director, Lonnie Randall, was filed on behalf of a teenager referred to only as Hunter C. in the lawsuit. He was placed in the Courtland facility in early 2018, when he was 14.
The lawsuit claims for the next 10 months the Courtland facility was “a house of horrors” for Hunter, who has suffered multiple behavioral issues since he was nine. Hunter claims he and other children were physically, verbally and emotionally abused.
Sequel’s facility also was run-down and inadequately maintained, according to the lawsuit. Children sleep on concrete slabs, feces and blood is wiped on floors, windows and wall throughout the facility and the gym is infested with snakes, rodents and bugs, the suit claims.
By the time Hunter left Sequel in early 2019, he claims he had been assaulted many times. In one instance, another child hit him with a brick; in others, he claims he was punched, slammed into walls and tackled by both Sequel employees and other residents. He suffered concussions, stitches and other injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Hunter was attacked at least three times in his last 10 days at Sequel, the suit claims. The first two attacks were from other children; in the third, he was slammed into a concrete wall by a staff member, opening stitches from one of the previous attacks, according to the complaint.
That same night he was attacked by his roommate, who was also responsible for one of the previous assaults. Hunter then attempted suicide in a bathroom, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit accuses Sequel of knowingly engaging in reckless, extreme and outrageous conduct that the facility employees knew would cause severe emotional and psychological distress on the children in their care.
The suit is seeking punitive and compensatory damages in a jury trial.
According to its website, Sequel has three other facilities in Alabama in Owens Cross Roads, Montgomery and Tuskegee.
Sequel’s Courtland facility was the target of a report from the Alabama Disabilities and Advocacy Program in July. That group, in conjunction with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Children’s Rights, asked state officials to revoke the Courtland facility’s license and relocate the children to other facilities. Sequel responded to that report by saying it was working to address issues the report found.
A Sequel facility in Madison was closed last year after the city revoked Sequel’s business license. That facility was the subject of numerous complaints, and residents and city leaders started calling for action on the facility after two residents who escaped the facility were arrested and charged with murdering a man behind Publix on County Lind Road.