Los Angeles County Facing Lawsuit for Failing to Protect Children From Sexual Predators at Children’s Emergency Shelter
LOS ANGELES – Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump, founder of Ben Crump Law, and co-counsel Adam P. Slater, Founding Partner of Slater Slater Schulman LLP, filed a civil action against the County of Los Angeles on behalf of more than 40 individuals who were sexually assaulted as children while housed at MacLaren Children’s Center, also known as MacLaren Hall. MacLaren Hall operated as an emergency children’s shelter placement facility between 1961 and 2003 in the City of El Monte. The lawsuit has been filed against the County for failing to protect minors at the facility, and civil complaints detailing crimes committed against hundreds of former residents are expected to follow.
The lawsuit was filed today on behalf of 31 Jane and John Does, each of whom were minor dependents of the County of Los Angeles at the time the abuse occurred, joining the civil lawsuit filed last month covering an additional 12 plaintiffs. Many of the children living at MacLaren were removed from abusive homes and subjected to further abuse by the facility’s employees. As alleged in the complaint, the facility was overcrowded, poorly maintained, and understaffed. Staff members consistently overmedicated, taunted, restrained, and physically and sexually assaulted the children in their care.
“Our nation’s children deserve better than this. MacLaren Hall was built to save children from abusive situations, but instead functioned as a house of horrors, re-abusing and re-traumatizing the very children it was built to protect,” said Ben Crump. “We will do everything in our power to hold those responsible accountable as a step toward ensuring nothing like this ever happens again.”
“Los Angeles County must be held to account for the physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and lifetime of trauma that MacLaren Hall survivors are dealing with,” said Adam P. Slater. “These were supposed to be short-term emergency placements, but the average stay at MacLaren lasted many months. The County used it as a dumping ground for children and showed no regard for what happened to them there. Many former residents are still suffering from the unimaginable trauma they experienced within its walls.”
As detailed in the complaint, employees of MacLaren Hall were not properly screened, trained, or supervised, the suit alleges. Until 2001, the county did not even conduct criminal background checks on all staff working at the facility. In June 2001, for the first time ever, the county undertook an effort to conduct background checks on all employees at MacLaren Hall to comply licensing requirements. These background checks revealed that 17 employees had criminal histories that disqualified them from working with children.
One of the victims, referred to a Jane Roe 9 K.A., was placed at MacLaren Hall on two separate occasions when she was between 10 and 11 years old. On multiple occasions at night, after being given medication to sedate her, she was sexually assaulted by a staff member.
The abuse outlined in the complaint was not solely committed by staff members; it was also perpetrated by other children, and directly resulted from the total lack of effective supervision by staff. For example, a second victim, referred to as Jane Roe 14 A.H., was placed at MacLaren Hall in approximately 2000 when she was 12 years old. Her 14-year-old roommate threatened her and coerced her to perform oral sex in the plaintiff’s sleeping quarters and showers.
According to the facts outlined in the complaint, MacLaren Hall’s employees allowed assaults to continue, sometimes nightly, despite victims’ reports of abuse. Many victims have reported that abusers would threaten them with being unable to leave the facility or being placed on lockdown if they reported the abuse. Some victims would be physically punished for “snitching” on staff members to social workers. Some employees would force children to take pills and other drugs provided by the medical staff to sedate them.
These are not the first allegations of abuse against the employees of MacLaren Hall. In 1984, five staff members were arrested on charges of child molestation and selling drugs to children. In 1985, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors requested a grand jury investigation in response to abuse allegations. In the following decades, no progress was made and children continued to be housed in horrific conditions that included physical, mental, and sexual abuse. MacLaren Hall was finally shuttered in 2003 as part of a class action settlement spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Ben Crump is a nationally renowned civil justice and personal injury attorney and founder of the national law firm Ben Crump Law. Slater Slater Schulman LLP is a full-service law firm focused on representing survivors of catastrophic and traumatic events. James W. Lewis and Rachel L. Liebert of Slater Slater Schulman LLP are representing well over 200 MacLaren survivors with forthcoming lawsuits. They are encouraging other victims to come forward by calling 888-895-4147.
Victims of child sexual abuse need to understand that the sexual abuse was not their fault. Many victims of child sexual abuse are forced to live with a lifetime of shame, embarrassment, and severe emotional distress and mental pain and suffering. Help is available.
Individuals seeking to be linked to resources for sexual assault survivors can call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. The National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) provides confidential support from trained staff members and can assist with finding local healthcare resources, help talk through what happened, and offer referrals for long-term support.
ABOUT BEN CRUMP LAW
Through his work, nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump has spearheaded a legal movement to better protect the rights of marginalized citizens. He has led landscape-changing civil rights cases and represented clients in a wide range of areas including civil rights, personal injury, labor and employment, class actions, and more. Ben Crump Law is dedicated to holding the powerful accountable. For more information, visit bencrump.com.
ABOUT SLATER SLATER SCHULMAN LLP
Slater Slater Schulman LLP is a prominent full-service law firm with over 40 years of experience representing survivors of catastrophic and traumatic events. Our nationally renowned attorneys are committed to ensuring the best results for our clients through persistence and zealous representation. We have achieved successful resolutions in some of the most challenging cases in the industry, including complex historical sexual abuse cases involving massive institutions, including academic, religious, and youth organizations. Our firm also has been recognized for its efforts representing clients in pharmaceutical drug litigation, product liability litigation, environmental litigation, employment and labor law, medical malpractice, and personal injury, and has successfully represented thousands of World Trade Center survivors to receive compensation for their injuries. Learn more at sssfirm.com.