Family of incapacitated rape victim who gave birth files $45M notice of claim against Arizona

Stephanie Innes
Family of incapacitated rape victim who gave birth files $45M notice of claim against Arizona

PHOENIX – The family of an incapacitated woman who was raped and gave birth at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix has filed notice that they may sue the state.

The 56-page notice of claim, filed on behalf of the 30-year-old rape victim and her parents, says the state of Arizona did an "abysmal job" monitoring Hacienda HealthCare.

The woman has severe intellectual disabilities, is nonverbal, does not make eye contact and has no functional use of her arms or legs, her medical records say.

The notice says the family would settle their claims for $45 million.

The woman gave birth to a 6-pound, 8-ounce baby boy on Dec. 29, and a 911 call indicates staff at the facility did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth.

One of the woman's caregivers, licensed practical nurse Nathan Sutherland, was later arrested and charged with sexual assault based on DNA evidence. He has pleaded not guilty.

More: Former Hacienda nurse accused of sexually assaulting, impregnating patient pleads not guilty

Exterior of Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix on Feb. 18, 2019.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's office has received the notice of claim and is reviewing it, spokesman Patrick Ptak wrote in an email.

Hacienda HealthCare is a private facility that houses patients whose care is paid for through the state's Medicaid program and whose cases are managed by the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

The notice says that Hacienda had unsupervised male caretakers in the victim's room, in spite of an individual support plan that called for only female staff and caregivers.

The notice also says that staff at the facility failed to realize she was pregnant and withheld food from her so that she would lose weight. She gave birth "without any pain medication and in a state of malnutrition," the document says.

The patient who was raped was a resident in Hacienda's 60-bed intermediate-care facility for people with intellectual disabilities.

The notice of claim filed by the rape victim and her parents, who are members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, specifies that the notice does not include any claims the rape victim's baby may have.

The family says the notice includes claims for the state's "independent misconduct" as well as "vicarious liability claims for the conduct of others involved in the abuse, neglect and exploitation" of the rape victim.

The notice of claim says "unspeakable atrocities" suffered by the victim were the result of systemic mismanagement and "virtually non-existent oversight on the part of the state." It alleges Sutherland was alone with the victim "on hundreds of occasions."

Other allegations and information revealed in the notice of claim include:

  • Arizona has a special responsibility to protect residents with disabilities.
  • Federal law required the state, as a recipient of Medicaid dollars, to provide the victim with a "dignified existence" safe and free from abuse.
  • The rape victim developed seizures when she was 2 months old and became a resident of Hacienda HealthCare when she was 3 years old.
  • Though she is nonverbal, she has been able to respond to familiar people and to groan and smile and "cries to express discomfort or pain."
  • She is "totally dependent" on others for all positioning, mobility and personal care.
  • Nathan Sutherland began providing unassisted and unsupervised care to the victim in 2012.
  • Dr. Thanh Nguyen took over the role as primary care provider to the victim in September 2018 until she gave birth.
  • Nguyen ordered the patient's feeding tube to be discontinued on Dec. 13, 2018, to promote weight loss.
  • Hacienda staff first realized the victim was pregnant when a nurse went to change her and "saw a baby's head in her briefs."
  • A physical exam indicated the victim had been repeatedly sexually assaulted.
  • The victim required a blood transfusion after giving birth.

Follow Stephanie Innes on Twitter: @stephanieinnes

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Family of incapacitated rape victim who gave birth files $45M notice of claim against Arizona