The Estate of Cornelius Frederick is suing Lakeside Academy, a residential treatment facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and 10 employees for $50 million.
The 16-year-old boy was restrained on April 29, 2020, in the facility, went into cardiac arrest and died at a hospital two days later. The facility Frederick was staying in was intended for young adults ages 12 to 18, placed through the foster care system or by their parents, to receive behavioral health services.
The suit was brought on by Tenia Goshay, who represents Frederick’s estate, as Cornelius was an orphaned ward of the state, court documents lay out.
The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed on September 30, says the “deliberate indifference, willful wanton and malicious actions” led to Frederick being “suffocated to death by eight grown men after being thrown to the ground for the ‘crime’ of throwing a sandwich on the floor.”
On April 29, 2020, Lakeside staff used an “improper restraint” on Frederick and “continued to suffocate him for a prolonged period of time,” even though the teen said he couldn’t breathe, according to the suit.
As a result, he suffered a cardiac arrest and anoxic brain damage. He was transported to a Kalamazoo hospital unconscious and later placed on life support, the suit added. On May 1, 2020, he died.
Geoffrey Fieger, an attorney for the plaintiff, told CNN this lawsuit was filed after they discovered how the defendants “monetized the business of children facilities across the United States.”
“We fully understand the ‘money over children’ concept,” Fieger said.
The lawsuit alleges that Sequel Youth and Family Services, the owner of the now closed Lakeside Academy, had a motto of “heads in beds,” meaning “as a custom, practice, and/or policy, pressured its facilities (and employees) to operate at or over maximum capacity so as to order maximize profits, regardless of the level of care provided to the children,” the lawsuit says.
A separate lawsuit filed by the estate in 2020, requesting $100 million in damages, is proceeding through the Michigan court system, Fieger said. A trial date is set for February 2022.
Last summer, three staff members at the Michigan facility were charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to Frederick’s death. Two of them laid across his torso during restraint, causing his death, prosecutors said. The three are also named as defendants in the new federal civil rights lawsuit filed.
One of those who was criminally charged, Heather McLogan, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor of child abuse in the 3rd degree, her attorney Anastase Markou told CNN. As part of the no contest plea agreement, McLogan “fully cooperated” with authorities and the other charges against her were dismissed.
Regarding the new lawsuit, Markou is “very confided that as this case moves forward, the allegations [against McLogan] will be dismissed,” saying that “the science and medical testimony was abundantly clear in the criminal case, the young man died from asphyxiation from the restraint,” and that McLogan “is not responsible, no matter how awful his death was.”
The other two staff members criminally charged, Michael Mosley and Zachary Solis, have not entered pleas in their cases.
Attorney Donald Sappanos, who represents Solis in his criminal case, said his client was “following the protocol” of the facility and that “the people that trained him were right there watching” as Frederick was being held down. Sappanos does not represent Solis in the federal civil rights lawsuit.
CNN has left messages with an attorney for Mosley and has not heard back.
At most times, “six to seven male staff” were on Frederick and he was restrained for about 12 minutes, according to a 2020 report from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. In the full report previously provided to CNN, officials said that staff initiated restraint that was “significantly disproportionate” to Frederick’s behavior, and the facility did not follow its own restraint policy.
Sequel Youth and Family Services, the owner of Lakeside Academy, told CNN last summer that the staff’s actions were not in line with the facility’s restraint policy.
CNN reached out to Sequel for comment on the lawsuit but has not yet heard back.
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