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Lawsuit seeks $100M, claims employees allowed 9-year-old Hawthorn Center patient to be attacked

Lawsuit alleges employees allowed child abuse at Hawthorn Center; Mother speaks out
Lawsuit alleges employees allowed child abuse at Hawthorn Center; Mother speaks out 02:44

(CBS DETROIT) - A $100 million lawsuit alleges child abuse against a 9-year-old Hawthorn Center patient and employees did nothing to stop it.

The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday, says the incident happened on Oct. 18, 2023, at the Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital in Westland. The Hawthorn Center in Northville is currently being housed in the hospital as the old facility is being demolished. A new center is expected to be built.

The child was admitted to the center for mental and emotional issues.

Attorney Arnold Reed, who represents the child's family, says a video shows that multiple staff members encouraged the assault of the child by a 15-year-old patient, who allegedly threatened the child beforehand.

The lawsuit claims an employee intentionally opened a secured door that was separating the child and the teen, resulting in the teen hitting the child. The lawsuit says the assault has led to the child experiencing psychological and emotional distress, humiliation, physical injury, and fear.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life. The brutal beating of this nine-year-old defenseless child at the hands of a fifteen-year-old resident was encouraged by several adult staff members. They instigated, cheered, and even gyrated in celebration of the instigation of this brutal assault," Reed said in a statement.

The lawsuit also alleges that prior to the beating, the child was in his room and placed his hands under the secured door. A staff member nearby then stepped on the child's fingers. The lawsuit claims the incident was intentional, and another employee who witnessed it failed to report it to managers at the center.

CBS News Detroit reached out to Hawthorn Center for comment but had not heard back by the time this article was published.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), which runs the hospital, said an investigation into the incident was completed by the State Hospital Administration and Office of Recipient Rights. 

Reed says while he credits MDHHS for completing a "very thorough investigation," he questions why there haven't been any arrests.

As a result of the investigation, one person was dismissed, another resigned, and a third employee was suspended.

The center was sued in 2022 for conducting an active shooter drill and not informing patients.

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