Settlement of Abuse of Disabled Child

In March, 2015, Stephen Cox negotiated a $515,000 settlement for Tamera Leighton, the mother of Colin Buchannan, a severely autistic 17 year old boy, involving physical and emotional abuse, at a group home and residential care facility in Redding, California called Cerro Lane Home, operated by Remi Vista, Inc. (“Remi Vista”).  While Colin was at Remi Vista, from March 2011 until July 2012, he was repeatedly physically abused by an employee of Remi Vista, a six foot, 320-pound staff member who was responsible for providing direct supervision and care to Colin at Remi Vista. Numerous unnecessary prone restraints were performed on Colin.  During these restraints, the staff member would throw Colin to the ground and then get on top of him, at times for up to 20 minutes, sometimes “planking” Colin, where the staff member’s arms and legs were off the ground, so that he could apply all of his body weight on Colin to exert maximum pain and pressure.

Colin, as a severely autistic child, was and is unable to speak, so he could not complain to other staff or his parents about the abuse.  Fortunately, other staff members did see what was happening, and one staff finally reported an improper, abusive restraint to the state agency responsible for investigating claims of abuse in the state’s residential group homes such as Remi Vista, Community Care Licensing Division (“CCLD”), a division of the California Department of Social Services.  CCLD investigated the claims of abuse and issued findings determining that Remi Vista and the staff member were guilty of 17 violations of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations, which govern the conduct of residential group homes and their employees.

On many occasions, the staff member provoked Colin into aggressive behaviors so that he could then throw Colin to the ground into a prone restraint.  During the investigation, numerous staff members of Remi Vista were interviewed by State investigators and verified the abusive behavior against Colin, and the knowledge and ratification of the abuse by Remi Vista management

As a result of the physical and mental abuse inflicted upon him for over a year, Colin suffered physical injuries such as cuts, bruises and joint strains, often observed by staff and reported to Remi Vista, in addition to severe regression in his autistic maladaptive behaviors for which he had been placed at Remi Vista in the first place, to get treatment.  Instead of providing positive behavioral support to Colin, the staff member,  and Remi Vista, worsened Colin’s behavioral condition through countless and unnecessary abusive restraints.  This worsening of Colin’s condition is sometimes referred to as “case hardening”.  That is, instead of reducing Colin’s maladaptive behavior, the abuse made Colin worse by increasing the frequency and severity of his behavior.

Stephen Cox prosecuted the civil case, taking numerous depositions of Remi Vista staff and managers.  The case was pending in Eureka County and finally settled just prior to trial for $515,000.