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Background: In November 2020, an adolescent girl was admitted to the psychiatric unit at The Pavilion, a residential treatment center in Champaign, Illinois. Six days later, the unthinkable happened—the girl was raped by a male patient also housed in the same unit. The girl’s mother filed a lawsuit against The Pavilion, alleging negligence that led to her daughter’s sexual assault. Attorney Tim Cronin of the Simon Law Firm represented the plaintiff and her daughter throughout the legal proceedings.

Proving Negligence

The Simon Law team argued that The Pavilion was negligent in four primary ways.

  1. Failure to Safely House Patients: Evidence showed that the victim was placed in a room directly next to the assailant, whose own intake records indicated he had a history of sexual aggression. This demonstrated a complete disregard for patient safety and created an unsafe living environment. Cronin emphasized this point in his opening statement about how reckless housing decisions violated the facility’s duty of care to vulnerable patients.
  2. Inadequate Staffing: Crucial testimony from Pavilion employees painted a disturbing picture of staffing levels in the adolescent unit. On the night of the assault, there were only three staff members—a nurse and two mental health technicians—monitoring the 30-bed unit. A former employee testified they had repeatedly raised concerns about understaffing to management, warning that the situation was “dangerous.” Other workers corroborated that the adolescent floor was chronically understaffed, making it impossible to properly supervise all the patients. An expert witness backed up these claims, testifying that with 30 beds, the unit should have had at least 6 staff members present—not just 3.
  3. Failure to Monitor Surveillance Cameras: Surveillance showed the assailant and his accomplice smearing toothpaste on the lenses of three different security cameras on the unit. None of the staff on duty that night noticed the tampering or took any action, as The Pavilion did not have a system in place to monitor camera feeds in real time.
  4. Lack of Proper Monitoring in the Unit: Even beyond the camera issues, testimony revealed a general lack of control and supervision on the adolescent floor. Former employees admitted it was nearly impossible to keep an eye on all the patients while also handling other duties. Other witnesses testified that the hallways did not appear to be under control and that Pavilion staff seemed to tolerate patients “doing whatever they want” without consequences.

Together, these systemic failures by The Pavilion created the conditions that enabled the horrific assault to occur, despite the facility’s duty to keep its vulnerable patients safe.

Overcoming the Defense’s Arguments

The Pavilion’s defense attempted to push back against the plaintiff’s allegations. The Simon Law team, however, was able to effectively rebut the defense’s key arguments:

  • The defense claimed the adolescent floor was adequately staffed per industry standards. However, the testimony of Pavilion employees and the expert analysis demonstrated that the staffing levels were dangerously low given the high-risk nature of the unit.
  • The defense argued the 16-year-old’s room placement next to the 13-year-old was not due to negligence, but because they both needed to be near the nurse’s station. However, evidence showed the assailant had a documented history of sexual aggression, making this housing decision inexcusable.
  • The defense contended the Pavilion staff had no way to predict the 16-year-old and his accomplice would orchestrate the assault. But the jury was presented with the assailant’s intake records, which noted his violent sexual tendencies – information that should have prompted heightened supervision.

Simon Law was able to systematically dismantle the defense’s arguments by presenting a mountain of evidence that tied The Pavilion’s negligence to the devastating outcome.

A Landmark Victory with Lasting Impact

The jury’s $535 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff was groundbreaking, representing one of the largest awards ever in a case of this nature.

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

As Tim Cronin stated after the verdict, the Simon Law team hopes this case will “lead to a culture change in mental-health facilities to make sure that these vulnerable children are protected.”

The Pavilion’s failures exposed systemic problems that plague many such institutions across the country. With this landmark victory, the Simon Law Firm has now set a new precedent for the standard of care expected of psychiatric facilities. This case will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications, compelling other such institutions to reevaluate their policies, staffing, and patient safety protocols to avoid similar tragedies.

This record-setting verdict represents more than just financial recourse—it is a powerful statement that the mistreatment of vulnerable patients will no longer be tolerated.

The victim and her family may have been failed by The Pavilion, but through the tireless efforts of the Simon Law team, they have now achieved a measure of justice.

Contact The Simon Law Firm, P.C.

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