The estate of Cornelius Frederick is suing Lakeside Academy and ten of its employees for $50 million after the teenager died after going into cardiac arrest in April of last year at the residential facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The suit was filed on Sept. 30 by the estate’s representative, Frederick’s aunt Tenia Goshay. Records show Frederick was an orphaned ward of the state at the time of the incident, CNN reported.
The federal civil rights claims that the facility’s “deliberate indifference, willful wanton and malicious actions” let to the 16-year-old being “suffocated to death by eight grown men after being thrown to the ground for the ‘crime’ of throwing a sandwich on the floor.”
Fredericks was living at the center intended for youths ages 12 to 18 placed there by the foster care system or by their parents or guardians in order to receive behavioral health services.
However, on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, he allegedly threw part of a sandwich in the cafeteria. The suit claims Lakeside staff then proceeded to use an “improper restraint” on the teen and “continued to suffocate him for a prolonged period of time,” despite his cries stating that he was unable to breathe.
It was also said that at least “six to seven male staff” were on him for about 12 minutes, according to a 2020 report from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services given to the outlet.
Frederick ultimately went into cardiac arrest along with anoxic brain damage became unconscious. He was later taken to a nearby hospital and placed on life support. Two days later, on May 1, he was pronounced dead.
Geoffrey Fieger, an attorney for the estate, told the outlet that the suit was filed after his office learned of how the defendants “monetized the business of children facilities across the United States.” “We fully understand the ‘money over children’ concept,” Fieger added.
This lawsuit further accused Sequel Youth and Family Services, the owner of the Academy, of having prioritized the business over its residents including Frederick with its motto of “heads in beds.”
The suit said “as a custom, practice, and/or policy,” Sequel Youth and Family Services “pressured its facilities (and employees) to operate at or over maximum capacity so as to order maximize profits, regardless of the level of care provided to the children.”
Three employees at the academy had been charged in Frederick’s death. Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis, and nurse Heather McLogan were all charges with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse last year.
McLogan, who told investigators she did not render immediate aid to Frederick because she thought he was “faking,” took a plea bargain in July and pleaded no contest to third-degree child abuse. She was sentenced to 18 months of probation on Sept. 27 and has agreed to testify against Mosley and Solis.
A separate state lawsuit was filed by the estate in June 2020. It reportedly seeks $100 million in damages, with a trial date set for February 2022.
In a statement released shortly after Frederick’s death the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would no longer permit the use of “physical restraints like the ones that cost this young man his life.”
“On May 1, a young man died because of restraints wrongly applied at a facility licensed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS),” Director Robert Gordon said at the time. “It was a tragedy and an outrage. We cannot bring this young man back to life, but we will not rest until we have changed the system that allowed his death.”
To read more stories like this, visit AtlantaBlackStar.com