Wellborn Paluch, LLP Blog

Thursday, January 28, 2016

State Investigating Mysterious Upsurge in Long-Term Care Injuries & Deaths

Who is liable when an elderly or disabled individual is injured due to caretaker neglect?

Approximately two years ago, Governor Cuomo implemented the Justice Center – an agency with a primary responsibility of investigating suspicious deaths of elderly or disabled individuals involving state workers. Most notably, the Justice Center is expected to conduct thorough investigations of any death that may have been caused by direct patient abuse or neglect. However, according to the details of an alarming new report, the Justice Center actually declined to investigate nearly all of the deaths occurring in state care since June, 2013 – which amounts to nearly 1,400.

Staggering numbers

Relying on New York’s public information laws, an advocate for the developmentally disabled population – to which his son belonged before being smothered in state care in 2007 – requested the investigative data covering June 30, 2015 through the present. During that time, an alarming 1,381 patients died in state care, and only six of those deaths were actually investigated in any measure by the Justice Center. Of course, a percentage of these deaths were immediately linked to natural causes or the natural progression of the victim’s condition. Nonetheless, many are decrying the seemingly obvious conclusion to be drawn from such disparate numbers: the Justice Center is not doing its job.


Prior to the implementation of the Justice Center, the New York Times published a horrifying report detailing the patterns of abuse and neglect occurring at state-run facilities for the elderly and disabled. At the time, any situations involving possible abuse or neglect were left to the center to investigate internally. Now, with just six cases making it to the desks of the Justice Center, many wonder if the same problems are occurring in a similarly cyclical nature, with all non-Justice Center cases being left to the center to investigate internally.


In 2014, just one fatal case of abuse was prosecuted, and it involved a nurse who fell asleep on the job resulting in the death of an oxygen-dependent patient. In that same year, 169 cases of non-fatal abuse were prosecuted, notwithstanding a reported 25,000 complaints of abuse or neglect lodged to the Center statewide.


If you are aware of elder abuse or neglect of the disabled, you may be able to initiate a lawsuit on behalf of your vulnerable family member against the center or facility tasked with their care. 

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