Families of loved ones who suffer from disabilities face many difficult decisions regarding their care throughout their lives. If they are unable to live on their own unassisted and can’t be cared for by a relative, arrangements must be made for them to reside in a setting that can best fit their daily needs. In many cases, that is a group home. However, as our injury lawyers have seen in cases past, these centers may not be fully equipped or their staffers properly trained in providing the best care and services.
Recently in Oklahoma, the operator of a group home was found mostly to blame for the wrongful death an adult resident who died of pneumonia in the spring of 2014, shortly after he was relocated to the home. The relocation occurred because the Oklahoma Department of Human Services voted to close his previous residence rather than investing in building repairs. That meant families were forced to find other suitable arrangements, and many worried there weren’t enough facilities in the area equipped to safely care for individuals with such needs. Attorneys for decedent’s estate argued soon after his arrival at defendant’s facility, he was not properly fed, medicated or supervised.
A lawsuit had been filed against the state, alleging 18 former patients of the first group home died suddenly after being forced to leave and find other sources of full-time care. A jury found the state wasn’t negligent. However, the same can’t be said of the administrators who ran the group home or even the doctors and nurses who provided his care.
According to KFOR-4, the 51-year-old decedent had the mind of an 18-month-old child. He had resided for 40 years in a state-run institution before he transferred to defendant group home in Tulsa. He transferred to the home in January 2014. His sister said the family was assured by administrators he’d be well cared-for. But he was hospitalized in just one month. In her wrongful death lawsuit, she asserts her brother suffered a seizure – which happened occasionally – and the staffers were not trained in how to properly care for him. She claims he was limp and drug out of the house on a chair and laid into a car and driven to a doctor’s office.
He died shortly thereafter. Defendant facility no longer cares for patients with developmental disabilities. After the wrongful death verdict, a spokesperson for the facility said there were no plans to appeal and that the jury’s verdict would be respected. The facility will pay $7.2 million of the $8 million judgment. The remaining amount was assigned to decedent’s doctors and nurses, but they were not named as defendants in this case, and thus will not be financially affected.
These types of cases are in no way unique to Oklahoma. In fact, journalism non-profit ProPublica late last year spotlighted widespread, systemic trouble in group homes caring for disabled individuals across Florida. Journalists discovered at least 145 cases of children in residential facilities dying from avoidable causes over the course of three decades. Some of these facilities receive upwards of $350,000 annually to provide for each patient, and yet fail to provide a basic standard of care. There were also hundreds of reports of abuse and neglect, many of those involving unnecessary and unsafe restraints.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
$8 million verdict awarded in Oklahoma wrongful death lawsuit, Oct. 14, 2016, By Sarah Stewart, KFOR-4
More Blog Entries:
Study: 1 in 5 Nursing Home Residents Abused by Other Residents, July 9, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog