2 more federal lawsuits filed against teen treatment center
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Two more federal lawsuits have been filed against a now-closed teen treatment center in Montana alleging owners and employees physically and mentally abused children and forced them to work at the defendants’ homes and businesses without pay.
The lawsuits were filed within the past week in Missoula on behalf of families from Montana and Virginia.
“We knew they were being required to work on (owner Bill) Sutley’s properties,” plaintiffs’ attorney Rob Bell told the Missoulian on Thursday. “But what we’ve learned since is that these kids were also being required to work at businesses that were owned by Sutley and family members.”
Another lawsuit was filed in October on behalf of a Washington state woman whose son participated in the treatment program.
The state Department of Health and Human Services has said it raided the ranch near Eureka in July and removed 27 children based on allegations of “egregious, chronic and persistent” abuse and neglect. The state also suspended the program’s license.
The raid came weeks after the state health department was given licensing authority over private adolescent residential treatment programs amid allegations of abuse at such facilities.
Sutley denied any wrongdoing following the raid and declined to comment Thursday to the Missoulian.
The lawsuits allege children were physically and mentally abused and experienced medical neglect. They were isolated, called names, denied food and subjected to physical exertion, such as long walks, for punishment, the suit alleges.