In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Salt Lake City, Terri and David Myers, on behalf of their 15-year-old daughter, claimed the Dr. Phil Organization is responsible for fraud, false imprisonment and breach of fiduciary duty.
The Myers first sought help from "vaunted television psychologist" Phil McGraw when their daughter—identified as "SM" in the suit—"was caught soliciting sex on the Internet":
According to the 25-page lawsuit, SM."was with a 15 year-old female friend, both having consensual sex with an adult male when another man arrived and killed in front of them the individual with whom they had been involved. S.M., in response to having had sex underage amounting to rape, started seeking for sex online with older men.
In their February 2013 Dr. Phil episode, McGraw told Terri Myers that she had failed her daughter "by a country mile" and he accused the daughter of "total naiveté." Based on McGraw's assessment of the situation, "SM" was offered help in a treatment center. The complaint states:
Dr. Phil's psychological remedy was to offer free treatment for the daughter at Island View, a Utah punitive behavior modification lock-down facility. Dr. Phil, however, knew or should have known, that any placement at Island View would subject S.M. to such a demented regimen that she would be at risk of her problems being exacerbated.
McGraw, the Myers say, "never addressed the trauma this young woman had already suffered by having the 19-year old that she and an equally young female friend had just had sex with, shot to death in front of them by the molester's friend, a jealous teen-aged male. Dr. Phil thus ignored the causes of S.M.'s trauma and then exacerbated that trauma by paying Island View to lock her up far from home in a private prison.
While SM was at the facility, her parents say she was subjected to "cruel punishment" by the guards, including a broken arm:
When a math teacher, Ryan Mortensen, told her to stay after school, she refused and went to her room. He then came after her and ordered her to an isolation room for time out. She refused that too in emphatic and obscene language and told him to leave her alone. He then pulled her off her bed, and called for help from three others to enforce his command. In the melee that ensued, there was a loud 'pop' that stopped everyone in his tracks. S.M.'s right (dominant) arm was badly and perhaps irreparably broken, and its main nerve severely damaged. Given the rapes and murder she had been through, the last thing any untrained male should have done was to assault her.
Ultimately, the suit alleges that "Dr. Phil has shown himself to be a showman more interested in ratings than a psychologist devoted to healing" and that he "was paid either in money or notoriety, or both, for endorsing not only Island View, but also a raft of CRC compounds just as abusive."
The suit also names Bain Capital, CRC Health Group, Aspen Educational Group, Island View Academy in Syracuse and a teacher at the academy.
Vice President of the CRC Health Group, Jonathan Ciampi, has released a statement regarding the lawsuit, claiming that while HIPAA disallows him from addressing a specific patient, CRC is not the bad guy here:
…by nature, the children who we treat have varying levels of behavioral and addiction issues and we take their care seriously. Any allegation made against any of our facilities is treated as a high priority issue and we have processes in place to review each situation accordingly.
Please know it is our policy and mission to provide a structured yet nurturing environment for the youth we serve. We deny any wrongdoing of the nature reported in the media.
Based on a report from The Wrap, McGraw is also denying any wrongdoing, saying that although he recommended treatment, "he did not control it, and had no influence over the girl's treatment."