Suit claims Courage Kenny Rehab Institute failed to prevent assault

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2014 - 11:16 PM

Courage Kenny workers were told about the threat but didn’t act, the victim’s family says.

Despite repeated warnings, staff and security personnel at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley failed to prevent a convicted sex offender from assaulting a vulnerable adult and even encouraged him to participate in her therapy sessions, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Corey Gordon, 42, who was charged last year with sexually assaulting the woman in December 2012, posed as a personal care attendant, duping security for months, and slipped into assisted dressing rooms with the brain-damaged woman, the suit says. The woman’s mother had warned staff that her daughter was being targeted by Gordon for sex, but was told “we don’t get involved,” the suit says.

The suit, filed in Hennepin County District Court, seeks damages of $50,000 or more.

Although it focuses on the case involving Gordon, that’s not the only case that has been linked to the center, which provides rehab and therapy services for people with disabilities. Six months after the 2012 assault, another sexual assault occurred at the institute, formerly known as Courage Center. In that case, Deonan Ramnarine, 54, a maintenance worker at the institute, was charged with assaulting a colleague with a mental disorder in the facility’s parking lot.

The day before that assault, the woman had told her supervisor that Ramnarine had been aggressively suggesting that they have sex, a police report said. She was told to tell him to stop bothering her, which she tried to do minutes before the attack in her car, the report said.

“Sexual abuse is horrific in any situation. But to have it occur at Courage Kenny, where vulnerable adults are supposed to be safe, is a tragedy,” said Minneapolis attorney Lori Peterson, who filed the suit on behalf of the family of the woman Gordon is charged with assaulting. “Courage Kenny/Allina was repeatedly warned about sexual predators abusing vulnerable adults, yet did nothing to stop it.”

In addition to the institute, the suit also names Allina Health System, which merged with Courage Center last year, and Hannon Security Services as defendants.

In a statement issued late Tuesday night, Allina said it takes “what steps we can to keep patients safe while they are in our care including appropriate policies related to visitors who come to our facilities. We are vigorously defending against these allegations. There is no allegation that any employee of Allina or Courage Kenny engaged in inappropriate conduct with a patient.”

The Minnesota Department of Human Services’ licensing division hasn’t received any complaints about the institute, said Karen Smigielski, media relations manager.

The case cited in the lawsuit wasn’t the only one in which Gordon, who is scheduled to stand trial next month, had contact with a patient at the institute, public records show. In February 2013, a woman with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair and communicates using a typewriter-speaking audio system was repeatedly approached by Gordon, who again was posing as a personal care attendant, a police report said. The woman’s mother contacted the institute, but she said her concerns were ignored by security staff. No charges were filed in that case.

Past accusations

There have been earlier accusations of sexual misconduct at the institute. In June 2008, a physician who did some work at the center was charged with criminal sexual misconduct for allegedly touching a female patient and exposing himself to her over a two-year period. Those charges were later dismissed, but a police report said investigators had submitted a similar case involving the doctor to the Hennepin County attorney’s office a few years before.

In July 2008, a temporary on-call employee had what he said was consensual sex with an institute employee who was a vulnerable adult, a police report said. When staffers learned of it, they did an internal investigation before contacting police, hampering the police investigation, the report said. No charges were filed.

‘Tip of the iceberg’?

Tuesday’s lawsuit lists the plaintiffs as Mary Roe and her 32-year-old daughter, Jane Doe. Doe has a rare brain disease that has left her with the cognitive and emotional levels of a third- or fourth-grader and is defined as a vulnerable adult, the suit says. She is capable of being left alone for two hours at a time, manages her medications and is proficient in using her smartphone, it said.

In 2012, Doe’s speech language pathologist allowed Gordon to participate in therapy sessions, the suit alleges. Doe’s clinical psychologist was informed by her mother that Gordon was “sexting” her daughter and placing her “in a situation where she may be taken advantage of,” but did nothing to intervene, the suit said.

Roe also informed the institute that Gordon was claiming to be a personal care attendant but was told by staff that “we don’t get involved” and by a director that an investigation would take place. No one ever reported back to her, the suit said.

Staff members noticed and commented that Gordon was taking Doe into private dressing rooms, but even though they knew she didn’t need assistance, they did nothing, the suit said.

Because of the abuse and the lack of intervention by institute staff, Doe’s condition has deteriorated, the suit alleges.

“To have it occur repeatedly, after multiple complaints to Courage Kenny/Allina personnel about this perpetrator being a danger, and having them do nothing to stop his sexual predation, is a travesty,” Peterson said. “Worse yet, there are more instances of sexual abuse of vulnerable adults at Courage Kenny. I think this is the tip of the iceberg.”

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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