Lawyers for an incapacitated woman who had a baby inside a Phoenix long-term care facility have filed a $45 million notice of claim against Arizona.
The 55-page claim lays the groundwork for a lawsuit. The woman’s family cites medical records in arguments that she was “violently and repeatedly raped” and may have been pregnant before.
In December, the 29-year-old victim gave birth to a baby boy, although no one at Hacienda HealthCare had known she was pregnant. The woman had lived at the facility since age 3, does not speak or make eye contact and has limited movement.
Staff at the facility, including a doctor, noticed the victim had gained weight just before delivery, according to the Arizona Republic. The claim says her feeding tube was removed in mid-December to promote weight loss. She gave birth “without any pain medication and in a state of malnutrition,” according to the claim.
The following month, licensed practical nurse Nathan Sutherland was charged with sexual assault when his DNA matched a sample from the woman’s newborn boy.
The victim’s mother had asked for only female staff to treat her daughter because she thought she’d be at risk for exploitation. Sutherland provided overnight care to the victim at least 800 times, according to the claim.
The office of Gov. Doug Ducey (R ) told the Associated Press Wednesday that it would be reviewing the claim, which seeks $25 million for the victim and $10 million for each of her parents. Since the case became public, Ducey has directed state agencies to bolster protections for individuals with disabilities in long-term care facilities and improve abuse-detection train for employees.
Sutherland, 37, pled not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and abuse of a vulnerable adult. He was fired and surrendered his nursing license.
Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons resigned in early January, and by March, at least a dozen staff members had left the beleaguered facility.
Lawyers gave Arizona 60 days to pay the claim, or the case will head to court.