How did teen with autism get burned? Lawsuit against group home may shed light on his injuries

March 28, 2019

A Raleigh teen suffered first- and second-degree burns that his mother claims happened at a group home for people with autism.

Josh Bryson, 17, is largely non-verbal and requires extensive and consistent care, so his mother sent him to the Living with Autism facility on Denlee Road.

Mary Bryson is now suing the group home on her son’s behalf after discovering burns on his upper body after picking him from the facility on Dec. 29 and taking him home to try on new clothes.

“She was totally shocked when she saw the injuries,” attorney Jay Mills said. “She noticed a couple of burns, and then when they took his shirt off ... it’s fairly graphic.”

Because Josh Bryson can’t effectively communicate about what happened, it’s still a mystery how the teen was burned, Mills said. However, he said he has no question as to where the injuries occurred.

“He had been around his mom the whole time, had not showered, had not been exposed to anything that could have caused these types of burns,” Mills said. “There’s just no indication it happened anywhere other than that facility.”

WRAL Investigates contacted Living With Autism, which operates two group homes in Raleigh. Executive Director Hannah Ellis strongly denied the injuries happened at the group home and defended Living With Autism’s reputation.

“Living With Autism has maintained a stellar reputation with zero incidents in its entire nine-year existence,” Ellis wrote in an email. “Neither the [regulatory] authority agencies, the mother or her attorney have provided sufficient evidence or proof that the injury occurred on our premises or while in our care. ... We fully intend to defend the suit.”

State records show the facility where Josh Bryson stayed had no deficiencies during an inspection in November. Living with Autism’s other facility was also inspected last year, and the only deficiency noted was for water temperatures that were too low.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office looked into Josh Bryson’s case and charged two Living With Autism employees with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Nicholas Tuttle and Marvin Dyson are described on arrest warrants as the teen’s caretakers in a residential treatment facility. The charge accuses the two men of not seeking medical treatment for him.

Ellis said Tuttle and Dyson were terminated following the criminal charges. The two men are scheduled to be in court next month.

In the civil case, Mills has to prove based only on a preponderance of evidence that the injuries happened at the facility. He said he hopes the courts will speak for Josh Bryson so he can heal physically and mentally.

“It has turned not just his life, but certainly his family’s life, upside-down,” Mills said.