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Father of teen who died at Utah treatment center files wrongful death lawsuit

Dec 31, 2022, 7:21 PM
FILE PHOTO...
FILE PHOTO

HURRICANE, Utah — Washington state resident Dean Goodridge is suing a teen treatment center in Washington County for the wrongful death of his daughter.

Goodridge’s 17-year-old daughter, Taylor, died on Dec. 20 at Diamond Ranch Academy, a residential treatment facility for troubled teens in Hurricane.

A news statement from Hurricane police said they were dispatched to the academy the day of the incident for a student who had been sick and collapsed. Despite school staff and emergency personnel extending life-saving measures, the student was pronounced dead.

Goodridge’s lawsuit says his daughter entered the academy in good health and even played on the volleyball team. In November, she started experiencing severe abdominal pain and asked Diamond Ranch Academy staff several times for help.

“Taylor’s stomach became extremely distended so that it was noticeable to others. Taylor was in excruciating pain, but all the DRA staff did was tell her to drink water and take aspirin,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit says Taylor begged staff for medical help and even collapsed in her own vomit one time, but was told she was “faking it” and needed to “suck it up.”

On Dec. 20, Taylor collapsed and died. Goodridge says in the lawsuit that Diamond Ranch Academy told him Taylor was taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack and died at the hospital.

Goodridge said he found out later that she died at the academy of “sepsis related to her several weeks of complaints to the staff.”

The lawsuit claims Diamond Ranch Academy had a duty to exercise responsible care in the treatment and supervision of Taylor Goodridge, the academy knew Taylor was suffering from extreme pain in her abdominal area, and that the academy breached its duty and created a “substantial risk of, and in fact causing, serious bodily injury and death to Taylor Goodridge.”

The lawsuit claims Diamond Ranch Academy acted with negligence and reckless indifference to Taylor, who was under their supervision and care, and breached the academy’s fiduciary duty. This subjected Taylor to dangerous conditions, causing injury and death, and the “permanent destruction of their family unit,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is asking for judgment against Diamond Ranch Academy to include general damages, special damages, and “punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish DRA and to deter DRA and others in similar situations from engaging in such conduct in the future.”

Alan Mortensen, the Goodridges’ attorney, said in an interview with KSL that the Goodridge family and the Native American tribe she is a part of are devastated at the loss of Taylor.

The family wants the place to be shut down so no other family has to go through what they have gone through, Mortensen said.

According to Mortensen, Goodridge said he is going to hold those who were negligent and had “callous disregard” for his daughter’s safety accountable.

The Diamond Ranch Academy parent manual states, “We recognize how difficult a decision it was to intervene on your child’s behalf. We also recognize how difficult it is to place the care of your child in the hands of another. Please take comfort in knowing that we take our responsibility very seriously.”

The lawsuit said the academy also promises to “treat every student as if they were our own daughter or son” and that medical concerns will be addressed with professionals, and medical staff will tend to needs onsite.

“Such good things were promised, and then she’s not even afforded the dignity and basic healthcare you and I are,” Mortensen said.

The Goodridges still don’t have Taylor’s body and no funeral services have been held yet.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Mortensen said. “It’s a situation where this has been a miserable, miserable holiday. And unfortunately, every holiday from here on out is just going to remind them of this tragedy.”

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services placed the facility on conditional status on Dec. 22.

The academy can no longer accept new clients, and it will be under increased monitoring inspections from the state health department licensing office to make sure compliance with rules is maintained.

“We take the health and safety of those in licensed programs very seriously. We are actively investigating and coordinating with law enforcement,” a statement from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services Office says.

Diamond Ranch Academy did not respond to KSL for comment.

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Father of teen who died at Utah treatment center files wrongful death lawsuit