Lawsuit filed after video captures therapist striking special-needs child

An East Los Angeles family has filed a lawsuit against CAL-PEDS, known as California Pediatric & Family Services, after their special-needs daughter was assaulted by a behavioral therapist, and the abuse was captured on camera.

The child, 16-year-old Marcela Verdugo, is nonverbal and “on the severe end of the autism spectrum,” said the family’s attorney, Robert Glassman of law firm Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi.

“When I first saw the video, I was absolutely shocked, and I was angry. I was angry at what I was seeing,” Glassman said.

The video shows behavioral therapist Kevin Yuen, who worked for CAL-PEDS and was often in the Verdugo’s home, striking the teen in the face, then appearing to check for visible damage.

Verdugo’s mother noticed bruises on her daughter and Yuen’s aggressive demeanor, so she installed a hidden camera, which captured the abuse, she said.

Yuen was arrested on June 24, 2021, on felony charges, one count of child endangerment and one count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily harm, according to jail records and the Verdugo family’s attorneys.

Eventually, Yuen pleaded to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge, and he was given four years of probation, Glassman said. He also had to complete a yearlong child abuse treatment program, and he’s barred from working with children during his probation, Glassman added.

The Verdugo family has also filed a civil lawsuit against Yuen and CAL-PEDS.

“We need to make sure that companies like this, these providers of therapy, don’t hire men like Kevin Yuen ever again,” Glassman said.

In an emailed statement, CAL-PEDS noted that they “have never had an incident like this in our nearly 40 years in business,” and their “hearts go out” to the Verdugo family.

“We were shocked and appalled when we saw the video. The employee in question, who had passed background checks, was terminated immediately, and we reported the incident to the appropriate authorities,” the statement read. “We are cooperating fully with law enforcement.”


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