CHARLESTON – The legal guardians of two residents of Potomac Comprehensive Diagnostic & Guidance Center are suing the company for the abuse and neglect the residents suffered.


James Harshbarger, the chief executive officer of Potomac Center; Kim Helmstetter, the chief operating officer; Karen Fisher, the human resources officer; Kevin Helms, the residential manager; Justin Wright, Joseph Moreland, Katrina Phillips, Jennifer Flores, Denny Timbrook, Travis Ratliff and Ryen Pepka, B House DSP's; Jacob Nichols, a C House DSP; and Derrick Swandol, a former C House service coordinator were also named as defendants in the suits.


Z.L. and P.W. were admitted to Potomac Center on July 24, 2013, and April 16, 2012, and were residents of both B and C Houses, according to two complaints filed Feb. 27 in Kanawha Circuit Court.


Edward and Chrystal Jordan and Bryce and Melissa Green claim Z.L. and P.W. were diagnosed with autism, mild mental retardation and epilepsy and were placed in Potomac Center because of its alleged mission to enhance the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities.


Between July 24, 2013, and Jan. 17, 2014, Z.L. suffered physical and emotional harm, including receiving intentional cold showers, verbal ridicule by staff, smacks, shoves, pokes, punches, hair pulling, choke holds, bending of extremities and improper use of pictures intended to demean Z.L.'s disability status, according to the suit.


On Jan. 15, 2014, P.W. suffered an injury in the shower from an unknown origin, resulting in several abrasions on his cheek, forehead and nose, according to the suit. The defendants' agents informed that P.W. fell and hit his head on a bathtub in the bathroom where the shower took place, however, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources report concluded that a bathtub was not present in the bathroom where P.W. suffered the injuries.


The plaintiffs claim the WVDHHR revoked the license of Potomac Center due to reports of systematic neglect and abuse of the residents and on Jan. 17, 2014, the plaintiffs were instructed to pick up Z.L. because the facility was being closed.


On Feb. 5, 2014, an agent of Potomac Center informed the plaintiffs that Z.L. had experienced neglect and abuse while a resident at Potomac Center, according to the suit.


The plaintiffs claim Potomac Center and its officers had a duty to hire, train and supervise its employees and failed to do so, which caused Z.L. and P.W. to suffer serious bodily and emotional harm.


The defendants were negligent and breached their duty of care to prevent abuse and neglect, according to the suits.


The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are being represented by Andrew L. Paternostro and Jeff D. Stewart of the Bell Law Firm.


The cases are assigned to Circuit Judges Charles King and Louis Bloom.


Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-431, 15-C-434

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