According to court documents filed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie M. Pierce on Friday, Universal Health Service Inc. — which oversees Rivendell Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas — " ... engaged in the intentional destruction of evidence that is central to issues in this litigation," stemming from the 2018 death of 20-year-old Joely Clements.
In July 2018, Clements' father, Andy Clements, filed a 32-page lawsuit against UHS, stating Joely was found unresponsive at the Little Rock apartment of Justin Neil Lusby, her nurse while receiving treatment at Rivendell in Benton.
The suit also stated that Joely was found with a "needle imbedded into her neck" and that she had passed away due to a heroin overdose.
Joely was discharged from the Benton facility only days before her death, according to court documents filed last year.
In the most recent ruling, Pierce stated that the defendants destroyed and/or failed to preserve evidence including Family Medical Leave Act documents regarding Lusby and text messages between employees using an application "Tiger Text."
"Material evidence has been intentionally destroyed and other evidence has not been produced by these two defendants despite a preservation letter from plaintiff's attorney's; and, despite an internal preservation email directed to essential employees of both defendants.
"There can be no other conclusion other than evidence was intentionally destroyed or lost by defendants. This is not a decision that comes lightly or without great thought and consideration," according to a letter written by Pierce.
The court documents also state that "Defendants have engaged in spoliation of evidence. Plaintiff's ability to obtain a full and fair trial has been irretrievably compromised as a result of destruction of emails from the human resource director, Shirley Spurlock; by failure to preserve, or even attempt to preserve, text messages between employees which were both private and hospital related ..."
As of press time, a trial date in this case is set for August 2019; however, an appeal from the defendants could alter that timeframe, according to Pierce's judgement.
It was previously reported by The Saline Courier that Lusby received his nursing degree in 2011 and had abused marijuana, alcohol and opiates since 2012.
In 2014, he failed to provide a clean urine sample during a random drug screening while employed with the Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden.
Later in 2014, Lusby admitted to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing that he "diverted controlled substances from patients to himself while employed as a nurse at Ouachita County Medical Center."
During his confession, he admitted he has suffered from addiction since the age of 19 and began abusing narcotics at 20. He also admitted to being chemically dependent of prescription narcotics since August 2013.
On Nov. 6, 2014, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing placed Lusby's license on probation for five years as a result of his "gross misconduct."
He was also ordered by the board to notify all future employers, which included Rivendell, of his probation conditions that required him to practice under an "employer-monitored nurse contract."
In the days prior to Joely's death, she was admitted to Rivendell March 30, where she formed a relationship with Lusby as her nurse.
According to the lawsuit, Joely stayed sober throughout her stay, engaged with her counselors, wrote in her diary and "worked hard at setting goals for herself once she was discharged."
Joely was discharged four days prior to her death.
On April 5, Lusby contacted Joely about going on a date with him.
According to records, Joely agreed to take part. Once Lusby arrived, Joely brought "a significant amount of her belongings, as well as her dog, into Lusby's car."
Joely told Lusby that she had recently fought with her uncle and that her father, who she was staying with, had not contacted her concerning the fight.
Joely then requested to stay at Lusby's residence.
Records state that during the course of the date night, Joely informed Lusby that she "wanted to use narcotics and, thus, relapse."
Lusby informed her that she would die if she did so because of the harmful effects of heroin and described Joely as "feeling better after their conversation."
However, Lusby proceeded to supply Joely with marijuana and the two smoked together that evening, according to court records.
On April 6, Lusby departed his residence for a fishing trip at Lake Erling, more than two hours south of Little Rock.
He later called Joely via FaceTime and determined she was under the influence of narcotics.
However, despite knowing Joely had relapsed, Lusby remained at the lake.
He called Joely the next morning, April 7, and did not receive a response. Court records state that he called Joely a number of times that day without a response even once.
Later in the day, Lusby drove to Malvern for a mandatory drug test, but did not return home afterward, despite having the knowledge regarding Joely and instead returned to the lake to finish his fishing adventure.
During the afternoon of April 7, Lusby called a female friend who had left jewelry at his apartment recently, informing her to go retrieve her items as he didn't want Joely to steal them and possibly purchase narcotics with the money.
The friend reportedly visited the residence but only heard Joely's dog as no one answered the door.
The friend returned the next day, April 8, with the same results.
Lusby did not return home until approximately 8:30 p.m. April 8 where he noticed Joely "hunched over on the floor" as he looked through his bedroom window.
Lusby notified the Little Rock Police Department who quickly arrived and attempted to revive Joely, but were unsuccessful. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
In an interview with authorities, Lusby admitted that he believes he "enabled" Joely's death because he was gone and left her alone despite knowing Joely's desire to abuse narcotics.
"Lusby knew Joely Clements struggled with drug addiction, but still provided her with heroin or, at minimum, a habitat that allowed her to obtain heroin easily," the 2018 suit states. "Lusby's actions and or omissions proximately cause the injuries and death of Joely Clements and plaintiff's damages."
The suit further states that Lusby's actions were within the course and scope of his employment as a nurse at Rivendell and that Universal Health Services of Benton is "vicariously liable for Lusby's negligence."
"Upon information and belief, UHS of Benton negligently hired, trained, supervised, retained and managed (Lusby)," the suit states.
According to court records, Universal Health Services Inc. earned more than $11 billion in revenue in 2017. UHS controls hundreds of medical facilities in the U.S., many of which are addiction rehabilitation facilities.