Update: WWASP lawsuit to be heard in St. George Utah

September 6, 2012


Wide-scope school abuse lawsuit to be heard in St. George

Written by  Kevin Jenkins

August 15, 2012 · Last Update: 10:57 AM

ST. GEORGE — A lawsuit claiming several youth correctional schools throughout the world were involved in perpetrating physical and sexual abuse against children from across the country will be heard in St. George’s 5th District Court, in large part because most of the companies accused of the abuse — and the people operating them — call Washington County their home.

Judge James Shumate ruled Tuesday the lawsuit will continue to be heard in St. George despite motions filed by the Texas attorney representing more than 350 alleged victims and family members that sought to have the case transferred back to Salt Lake City, even though a judge there ruled the case should be heard in Southern Utah.

The complaint claims nearly 60 defendant companies and their owners were involved in the systematic abuse of juveniles who were placed in boarding schools or residential treatment centers by their parents or guardians.

Although the schools and treatment centers accused in the lawsuit bear a variety of names and have been located in multiple countries, the plaintiffs allege they are all connected as enterprises of an institution named the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, which is based in St. George and owned by Toquerville resident Robert Lichfield and co-owners Brent Facer and Ken Kay, who list St. George business addresses.

“Thirty-eight of the 57 defendants reside in Washington County. That would bear out that the case should be in Washington County,” Salt Lake City attorney Stewart Harman, representing the Washington County defendants, argued. “That’s where the documents of this alleged conspiracy would be located.”

Examples of abuse by staff members of the different facilities, enumerated in the complaint, include allegations of locking the youths in small cages in painful positions, denying them adequate food, denying them proper medical care, kicking and beating them, forcing them to eat their own vomit, forcing them into sexual relations and depriving them of sleep or access to the toilet.

The complaint acknowledges that not all youths in the program were alleged to have suffered all the forms of abuse listed, but it claims all of the student plaintiffs suffered multiple forms of abuse during their time in the boarding programs.

Dallas attorney Windle Turley argued Tuesday for the plaintiffs that the case’s expansive scope should be heard in Salt Lake City’s court because the only Utah plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are five people from the Wasatch Front area and because it would be easier for non-Utah plaintiffs to travel to the Salt Lake area than to St. George.

The non-Utah plaintiffs list addresses in 36 other states, plus one each in Washington, D.C., and in England, and Turley argued a Washington County trial would be prejudicial in favor of the defense.

The lawsuit is filed as a joint-action case, meaning each plaintiff retains his or her own standing, instead of as a class-action lawsuit in which the defendants would all be considered to be uniform in their circumstance and case outcome, Turley said.

The lawsuit was filed in Utah’s federal court in 2006 under racketeering allegations, but those claims were dismissed last year, and the abuse complaint moved to the state’s 3rd District court. Salt Lake City Judge John Paul Kennedy sent the case to Washington County in June in response to a motion by the defense.

Shumate sought to assure Turley that St. George has sufficient staff and technological resources to handle the complex case, and allowed that the different parties may participate in the organizational court hearings via telephone without traveling to Utah.

“In order to not use your valuable time nor your clients’ resources … I’m avoiding airline tickets and travel expenses for the parties,” Shumate said. “The court’s sensitive to the expenses of the parties and the firms (involved).”

Shumate said there likely is still a lengthy court process ahead and scheduled an Oct. 2 status conference to ensure the case is progressing.

“Let’s get some wheels on this thing and get it moving,” Shumate said.


Wood VS WWASP Original Complaint 

About WWASP Survivors

As survivors of the systematic and deliberate abuse of children in the WWASP programs, We believe it is our duty to advocate for the kids currently in programs today, to demand their rights to be protected from physical and mental abuse and to warn any parents considering the risk of placing their child in an abusive “Tough Love” program.

Please refer to our Red Flags list for advice on pinpointing and avoiding abusive programs.

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13 Responses to “Update: WWASP lawsuit to be heard in St. George Utah”

  1. Steafan Oveson Says:

    I attended Casa by the Sea circa 2000-01. Like many other students, I experienced extreme mental and moderate physical abuse. I live in Utah, and would like to testify to some of the allegations that I experienced. Any information, and perhaps court dates, would be much appreciated.


  2. Cody seth crawford Says:

    I tried contacting about the lawsuit because I did at one point want to be included…No reply…Nothing….So whatever right? I did not want money,,I wanted someone to apologize to my mothe ,siter ,dead grandma and grandpa..And maybe even me…I wrote an e-mail I called….not very proffesional.


    • WWASP Survivors Says:

      Cody a lot of people have tried getting into this lawsuit and they have to turn everyone away because they already have too many people. As well they are probably too far in the judicial process to take on new people. I am sorry your phone calls were not returned, but I would have to assume they are quite busy and can’t get to all the calls they get on a regular basis asking to join the lawsuit. There is another lawyer taking WWASP kids for a lawsuit, his name is Thomas m. Burton (801)918-1656

      Please call him and see if he might be able to take you on.
      Good Luck!


      • Scott mckeever Says:

        I was at casa by the sea in 2004-2005, and everywhere I’ve talked to has said they can’t do anything because it’s been so long, even though I still suffer daily. my mother didn’t even know what had happened down there until last year because I couldn’t bring myself to tell her, knowing that she would feel responsible even though she was just trying to help. If someone could please direct me to a place that won’t think I’m lying or trying to profit from this and can just help me please.


  3. Mark Wyman Says:

    Can you tell me the outcome of this lawsuit? Is it still ongoing or has it been settled.

    Mark Wyman


  4. Linda Thomas Says:

    Within the last week, Youth Foundation, Inc. changed it’s licensing by removing crosscreekprotrams.com and Karr Farnsworth. Farnsworth has been replaced by Jade Robinson who is associated with the shuttered Casa by the Sea and Horizon Academy.

    Nice try, you guys!


  5. drew Says:

    I was at casa 1999 2000 I never got out of r&r they kept me there my entire stay


  6. Ed Campbell Says:

    I would love to get in the loop. My son was in Paradise Cove in 1995


  7. Tim Campbell Says:

    Nearly got sucked into sending my child to Youth Foundation. Sorry for your suffering – we need help and this is the 1st we’ve gotten.


  8. Daniel Says:

    I was at Dundee Ranch in 2002. If anyone could provide any information whatsoever (updates on victims, updates on abuser, litigation opportunities, past litigation outcomes, open litigation, ways to contribute/get involved, support groups, even just chit chat about our experiences), contact me at dr7507@aol.com.



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