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Paris Hilton Discusses Miracle Meadows Case During Recent Speech - April 5, 2024

On April 5, following a court hearing regarding horrific abuse uncovered at Atlantis Leadership Academy (ALA) in Jamaica, Paris Hilton spoke out against the troubled teen industry. Hilton expressed that “there is nowhere on Earth I am unwilling to travel to support and advocate for youth who have experienced institutional child abuse and neglect.” She stated in her comments alongside the linked video that two of the eight boys involved in the case regarding the abuse at ALA are returning to their families.

In her speech, Hilton mentioned the abuse that occurred at Miracle Meadows Boarding School. Our attorney Guy D’Andrea, along with Charleston attorneys Jesse Forbes of Forbes Law Office PLLC and Scott Long of Hendrickson & Long, PLLC, secured a nearly $52 million settlement on behalf of more than two dozen of the WV school’s former students in 2020 in that case. Much like Hilton’s advocacy work, we view our work in securing settlements in cases like these as an example of taking action against institutions that cause serious harm to troubled youth around the world.

What Happened at Miracle Meadows?

Twenty-nine former students of Miracle Meadows were alleged to have suffered mental, sexual, and physical abuse at the hands of the adults who ran the school over the course of several decades. The former students alleged that the abuse they suffered included being chained and shackled to beds, kept in isolation rooms for weeks and months at a time, sexually assaulted, starved, forced to perform manual labor, and routinely beaten.

Although the Miracle Meadows School, located in Salem, West Virginia, was shut down by authorities in 2014, it wasn’t until October 2020 that a settlement was reached. The school was founded in 1987 by Gayle Clark and her husband and was advertised as a Christian boarding school specifically targeting at-risk youth or those with learning disabilities or behavioral disorders.

Authorities and law enforcement made multiple attempts to investigate Miracle Meadows over the years. However, it was difficult to bring the perpetrators to justice as they were often brought to the school on work visas and then returned to their home countries before they could be questioned by authorities. At the time of the school’s closure, Clark was arrested, and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department uncovered multiple allegations of sexual abuse and physical assault at the school.

Parallels of Abuse and Advocacy

In Paris Hilton’s speech, she highlighted how at least eight of the boys abused in the Jamaican school were American. They were forced to remove their clothing and subjected to beatings and waterboarding, starved, and underwent other types of mistreatments. These mistreatments are very similar to those suffered by the students at Miracle Meadows.

Here at Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan LLP, we have a long track record of handling cases where teachers and others in the educational sector took advantage of children under their care. We are fierce advocates to those who have suffered abuse and will help however we can in the fight against those who allow similar types of abuse to happen.

Public Radio Covers Kanakuk Victims Support of the Bill Expanding the Statute of Limitations

For decades, Kanakuk Kamps has ignored allegations of sexual abuse, resulting in the victimization of children and no accountability for those who enabled the crimes. Often, victims of this kind of institutional abuse take many years to process the trauma they have endured and, as a result, do not come forward until years later, after the statute of limitations has run out. This can leave them with no recourse for seeking justice.

Now some of these victims and their advocates are speaking out in support of HB 1617, a Missouri bill that would add 10 years to the existing statute of limitations and allow victims to file lawsuits until they reach age 41. Attorney Bobby Thrasher, who represents Kanakuk victim Logan Yandell alongside Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan attorneys Guy D’Andrea and Michael McFarland spoke with St. Louis Public Radio about the benefits of the bill for victims.

“It would give them more time to work through their own pain and suffering,” he said.

Yandell filed a lawsuit against Kanakuk Camps in 2022, claiming his family was tricked into signing a settlement agreement after he was sexually abused by camp director Peter Newman. Yandell and his parents claim they agreed to the settlement because Kanakuk leaders told them that the camp had no previous knowledge of misconduct by Newman.

Thrasher said the bill gives victims more years to process what they’ve experienced “before re-traumatizing themselves and trying to bring a lawsuit against an organization — or re-face the perpetrator themselves.”

He acknowledges that the bill is limited; there would be no retroactivity. “We would have to amend the state constitution. There’s more steps involved,” Thrasher said. “It just becomes a bigger fight in order to get a law like that.”

Because these brave victims and their families come forward, awareness has grown of the immense harm that occurs when organizations like Kanakuk look the other way and enable abuse. Trey Carlock, a former camper who was abused by Newman, took his own life at age 29. His family disclosed his abuse in his obituary, motivating others to speak out.

“Because we were public about his abuse in that obituary, other families began reaching out and sharing their stories,” said Carlock’s sister Elizabeth Phillips. “And it became this mini ‘Me Too’ movement around Kanakuk victims connecting for the first time.

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan Founders Discuss the Firm’s Advocacy on Behalf of Injured Workers and Crime Victims with Forbes

In a recent article in Forbes, Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan founders Jeffrey Laffey and Paul Bucci discussed the firm’s focus on pursuing justice for victims of workplace accidents and crimes, specifically those who have survived sexual abuse or assault.

“Our clients are often in extremely vulnerable positions,” said Bucci. “Our goal is to help them move forward with their lives.”

Laffey is the son of a union carpenter and uses the power of the law on behalf of working people, obtaining numerous seven- and eight-figure results for clients. One of these victories includes a $15 million recovery for a refinery worker who fell in excess of 15 feet due to an unsafe access ladder. “I love being the blue-collar guy getting white-collar results for my clients,” Laffey said.

Bucci is also committed to fighting for working people; he secured the largest construction accident settlement in U.S. history as a lead attorney in the 2003 parking garage collapse at Tropicana Atlantic City.

“The magnitude of that case was profound, but it’s no less profound for a family whose father or husband was in a single job-site accident,” said Bucci. “We bring the same strength and compassion to any size of workplace case.”

That ethos of compassionate advocacy informs the entirety of the firm’s work on behalf of clients. “We take a lot of pride in being able to substantially alter our clients’ lives for the better,” said Laffey.

Read the full article here: Fighting the Good Fight

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan Founder Discusses the Impact of Sullivan v. Werner Case on Products Liability Law - Feb. 8, 2024

In a recent article in The Legal Intelligencer, Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan founder Jeffrey Laffey explored the ramifications of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Sullivan v. Werner decision. Laffey, who, along with attorney Stewart Ryan represented the plaintiffs in the case, explained that the Court has answered a major open question in products liability law by affirming that a manufacturer’s alleged compliance with governmental and industry standards is not admissible.

In 2014, the Court’s Tincher v. Omega decision outlined the risk-utility test, which can determine if a product is unreasonably dangerous and defective. This test examines whether a reasonable person would conclude that the probability of harm caused by the product outweighs the burden or cost of taking precautions. The decision has led some manufacturers to attempt to introduce evidence of compliance with government and industry standards.

In the Sullivan case, union carpenter Michael Sullivan suffered career-ending injuries when a platform of a scaffold collapsed, causing him to fall. Evidence established that the deck pins that help secure the platform rotate to a degree where the platform can become partially dislodged. Although Werner, the manufacturer, attempted to introduce evidence of compliance with standards set forth by an entity funded by the American Ladder Institute, this evidence was not admitted, and Sullivan was awarded $2.5 million.

Laffey highlights the implications of the case: “What the Sullivan decision does is sharpen the focus for plaintiffs and defense counsel alike when handling products liability cases. Rather than be distracted by side arguments…practitioners can hone on a very straight-forward question: was the product in question defectively designed?”

Read the full article here: Pa. High Court Cleared Up a Big Strict Products Liability Law Question in ‘Sullivan’ (subscription required)

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan Attorneys Discuss Recent Victory for Client in Products Liability Case - Dec. 26, 2023

In a recent article in The Legal Intelligencer, Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan founder Jeffrey Laffey and partner Stewart Ryan discussed the implications of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to affirm their client’s $2.5 million award in the case Sullivan v. Werner Company. The Court determined that defendants cannot introduce evidence showing their product complies with industry standards, finding that their 2014 ruling in Tincher v. Omega Flex did not change the way courts must handle such evidence.

Laffey and Ryan’s client, Michael Sullivan, fell when the platform he was standing upon collapsed, and he alleged that the scaffold was negligently designed. The defendants in the case, Werner Co. and Lowe’s Cos., sought to bring in evidence that the product met federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and American National Standards Institute standards.

Although Tincher had left some doubt as to the admissibility of a manufacturer’s alleged compliance with standard industry protocols, the Court’s majority decision affirms that this evidence should be barred.

“Everybody’s imagination ran amok with what Tincher meant for the past nine years,” Laffey said. “It solidifies Pennsylvania as a Second Restatement state, which Tincher expressly stated that it was.”

Under the American Law Institute’s Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 402A, “one who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer” may be held strictly liable to the injured party, even if “the seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of the product.”

Tincher established that there are two tests—risk-utility and consumer expectation—under which plaintiffs can now present product liability cases, but there is still a severe separation between negligence and strict liability. Ryan noted that this appeal offers insight into the justices’ view of the post-Tincher landscape, saying, “They’re seeing the reality that the only thing Tincher may do here is change the lens by which juries can determine product liability. All of these various sub issues the defense bar is saying no longer matter. The court said we’re still a Restatement (Second) state.”

Read the full article here: Industry Standards Evidence Inadmissible Following ‘Tincher,’ Pa. Supreme Court Says (subscription required)

CBS 6 Discusses Virginia Massage Envy Sexual Assault Case with Attorney Stewart Ryan - March 11, 2020

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan represents a woman alleging that she was sexually assaulted at a Massage Envy location in Short Pump, Virginia. CBS 6 Problem Solvers recently interviewed Stewart Ryan and the firm’s client for an investigative report on sexual abuse at the massage franchise and how state regulators address the issue.

Ryan called the issue an epidemic and believes Massage Envy must work harder to protect its customers. “It doesn’t appear that anything is being done, the fact that sexual assault continues to occur evidences that nothing is being done, or the right things aren’t being done.”

Watch the full interviews here.

  • $9 million

    A car crash resulting in a passenger suffering permanent quadriplegic injuries

  • $2.5 million

    An on the job injury where an union carpenter fell on a construction site and was injured because of defective fall protection equipment

  • $2.5 million

    A workplace accident on the job resulting in below-the-knee amputation of the plaintiff’s right leg

  • $1.1 million

    Against a fraternity for negligently serving alcohol which resulted in a stabbing assault of two frat party attendees

  • $101 million

    The collapse of a parking garage at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City that injured over 30 construction workers on the job and killed 4 men working on the project (largest construction accident settlement in U.S. history).

  • $15 million
  • Seven Figure Recovery

    Man who was killed when his car fell off of a 3 floor parking garage due to defective vehicle barrier protection system

  • Seven Figure Recovery

    Wrongful death by electrocution of a union electrician on the job, when electrical switchgear malfunctioned

  • Seven Figure Recovery
  • Seven Figure Recovery

    The on the job injury to a union carpenter who fell through an interior mobile scaffold while at work, suffering bilateral calcaneal fractures

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