Hacienda victim may have been pregnant before, legal claim says
PHOENIX — The incapacitated woman who gave birth in December after being raped at a Phoenix long-term care facility may have been pregnant before, according to a legal claim.
A medical examination found that the woman, who had been at Hacienda HealthCare since she was 3 years old, had scars that suggested she had been “frequently and violently raped” and had given birth at least once before the recent delivery, according to a notice of claim served upon the state of Arizona by the family’s legal representation Wednesday.
The notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, said the facility promised to honor the mother’s request that only female staff would care for her daughter, but it was found that multiple male caretakers had unsupervised access to the victim’s room.
According to the claim, the victim is a nonverbal quadriplegic, but she has the ability to perceive her surroundings and cry and make noises when uncomfortable.
The claim presents evidence that Hacienda staff missed at least 83 opportunities to diagnose the victim’s pregnancy, including that she had missed menstrual periods and that staff had noted weight gain and a hard mass in her abdomen leading up to the birth.
The claim states that staff instead treated her for constipation and weight gain using laxatives, and that she was severely dehydrated and malnourished when she gave birth.
Former Hacienda employee Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse who was responsible for caring for the victim since 2012, was arrested in January after his DNA matched that of the baby’s.
Sutherland was charged with sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult and has pleaded not guilty.
The victim’s family is seeking $45 million from the state due to the physical and emotional damages experienced by the victim and her parents.
Legal expert Monica Lindstrom told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Wednesday that the family’s case is strong.
“Hacienda obviously didn’t either train its employees correctly or just ignored (the pregnancy),” Lindstrom said.
“And then you have the state that should have had some kind of oversight here, and probably the board of directors at Hacienda as well, because it all comes down to the policies and procedures that were not implemented.”
Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.