The parents of a troubled 16-year-old have filed a $16.5 million suit against the state of Utah, charging that the state's decision to shut down the Challenger wilderness program damaged their son, who was enrolled in the program.
Herbert and Judith Tepper, Mission Hills, Calif., filed the suit in U.S. District Court Wednesday against Attorney General Paul Van Dam; Assistant Attorney General Linda Luinstra; Social Services employee Kenneth Stettler and 30 "John Does."In their suit, the Teppers accuse state officials of violating constitutional and statutory procedures when it shut down Challenger II's southern Utah program in August.
Challenger II, a Delaware company, ran afoul of Utah regulatory agencies after a teenage girl died in Challenger's Southern Utah wilderness program last summer.
Challenger filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. The state filed a suit against Challenger in late August, forcing the company to close its Southern Utah wilderness program.
The Teppers enrolled their son Jordan in that program in July, after all other programs failed to help him, the suit says.
Based on information Challenger gave the couple, the Teppers believe Jordan was improving by August, when the state forced the program to close, the suit says.
The family says state officials violated the law in closing the program. The suit says the state based its complaints against Challenger on information they should have known was false. The state also failed to notify the family of pending action Challenger.
The state's actions against Challenger worsened Jordan's troubled behavior, the suit says.
"He was encouraged to rebel against parental authority," the suit says.
The boy was forced to return home without completing the program and was subpoenaed to testify in 4th District Court in Provo against the program.
The state's suit against Challenger deprived the Teppers of various rights secured by the constitution, the suit says.
The family seeks compensation for the lost value of the wilderness program, damage to Jordan's attitude and his relationship with his parents, travel and lodging and professional fees for treatment and evaluation of Jordan.