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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. – A Champaign County jury awarded a $535 million verdict to a girl who was raped when she was 13 years old at a psychiatric residential treatment center after Simon Law Firm attorneys proved the facility could have prevented the attack.

It happened six days after her mother brought her to The Pavilion in Champaign, Illinois because she was struggling with depression. Her attacker was a 16-year-old boy, whose intake records indicated he had a history of violence, including an escape from a juvenile center in Chicago. The victim’s mother filed a lawsuit against The Pavilion after the Dec. 5, 2020 attack, alleging her daughter was placed in a room next to her attacker without any precautions. Testimony revealed that the facility allowed male and female patients between 3 and 17 to be housed on the same floor.

It took the jury 6 ½ hours to deliver its landmark verdict – one of the largest awards ever in a case of this nature.

The jury awarded $60 million in compensatory damages — $20 million for the girl’s “loss of normal life” and $40 million for her “pain and suffering.” It also included $475 million in punitive damages against the defendant, Pavilion Behavioral Health System. It is an Illinois-based subsidiary of for-profit hospital operator Universal Health Services.

Simon Law attorneys John G. Simon, Tim Cronin and Nathan Perlmutter represented the victim. Cronin was lead counsel during the eight-day trial, which took place in March. “Ladies and gentlemen, they essentially tossed an aggressive, sexually active, 16-year-old human hand-grenade into this unit and into a room next to my client and didn’t separate them,” Cronin told the jury.

After the verdict, Cronin said the Pavilion’s systemic failures enabled the assault to occur, despite its duty to keep its vulnerable patients safe.

“This historic judgment sends a powerful message that psychiatric facilities will be held accountable for failing to protect their most vulnerable patients,” he said.

Cronin says he hopes this case will “lead to a culture change in mental-health facilities to make sure that these vulnerable children are protected,” and compel other such institutions to reevaluate their policies, staffing, and patient safety protocols to avoid similar tragedies. Testimony from Pavilion employees showed there were only three staff members monitoring a 30-bed unit on the night of the attack. An expert witness testified the unit should have had at least double that number.

Current and former employees also testified that their concerns about staffing levels went unanswered.

None of the staff members on duty that night noticed the toothpaste on the security cameras or took any action because The Pavilion did not have a system in place to monitor cameras in real-time.

The defense argued the adolescent floor was adequately staffed per industry standards, and that the victim and the attacker were placed next to each other because they needed to be near the nurse’s station.

The defense argued Pavilion staff had no way to predict the 16-year-old and his accomplice would orchestrate the assault. But when presented with the attacker’s intake records, the jury agreed with Simon Law attorneys who said that should have prompted heightened supervision.

In 2022, the rape suspect was killed in a shooting in St. Louis.

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Christine Byers

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