TAMPA, Fla. – In a heart-wrenching lawsuit, a behavioral health center and security firm are sued for imposing negligence, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional stress on a 15- year-old minor child who was already suffering as a past victim of human trafficking.
The case raises critical questions about common sexual exploration during puberty through adolescence, and how homes and institutions for troubled children potentially exploit sexual exploration as a scapegoat to avoid litigation for sexual assault.
This case begins on September 19, 2019. Mary Skelly, mother of the minor child, filed a legal complaint against two parties: Trucore Behavioral Solutions as owner of Lake Academy where the minor child resides, and G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc., a foreign profit corporation that provides security technologies or security guards.
Lake Academy is a non-secure commitment facility operating in Hillsborough County.
On June 30, 2019, the young girl was allegedly sexually battered and assaulted by another resident. The resident was another female.
This female had a previous history of assault at the commitment facility. As the minor child’s biological mother, Skelly was never informed of the incident by Trucore or G4S Secure Solutions.
Instead, she learned about it the day after the assault when her daughter informed her. After hearing the news, Skelly contacted the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and arranged for her daughter to be examined by sexual assault experts.
Afterward, her daughter was allegedly subjected to her assailant in public areas and during group activities at the academy, despite both the mother and minor child’s demands that the assailant be kept at bay.
A month passed before the assailant was removed and placed in jail. Jamie Sasson, attorney for the Plaintiff from The Ticktin Law Group of Deerfield Beach, said, “In their reports, Trucore said the school reviewed the video, and the two were not around each other after the alleged sexual assault. My client says this is not true.”
According to the lawsuit, due to the psychological trauma and emotional distress of the incident, the minor child attempted suicide or exercised in suicide ideation multiple times while Trucore allegedly continued to subject the minor child to her assailant.
As expected, her fear of a recurring assault was immense. Sasson said the minor child was not suicidal prior to the alleged sexual assault. He also said Trucore knew the incident happened but voluntarily decided to not inform Skelly. “We say this was rape, the defense says this was consensual and that the minor child and assailant were being flirtatious with one another.”
The lawsuit declares the defendants did not provide adequate supervision of residents in contact with the assailant through the daily course of living.
As a result, the minor child’s treatment for psychological trauma over physical and sexual abuse at the hands of human traffickers regressed several stages. She was allegedly physically and sexually abused by human traffickers in March 2017. “The minor child got involved in the wrong crowd and was getting sold for sex. That’s why she was in the center,” Sasson explained.
Applicable to this case is the decision of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal. In the past, it stated that intentional infliction of emotional distress is “intentional or reckless conduct that is outrageous in that it is beyond all bounds of decency and utterly intolerable in a civilized community and that causes the victim emotional distress that is severe.”
Sasson said depositions will be taken for this case in about two months.
The defendants’ attorney is Bruce D. Peisner of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard, and Smith of Tampa. The law firm filed a Motion to Dismiss in August 2020 regarding the second count of “Negligent Supervision,” stating it would cause a double recovery in conjunction with the first count of “Negligence.”
That Motion was denied. Peisner was contacted to get a response on the case, but he said, “I am not authorized by the client to make remarks.”
A trial by jury is demanded.