How a Lawsuit Can Change Policies

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Harmful rules, policies, and laws won’t change by themselves. Only by seeking justice through the legal system can we change things for the better.

In this video, Nancy Winkler describes a tragic case of a death at an assisted living facility. After the lawsuit, the facility changed how they respond to certain emergency situations, likely saving future lives.

Video Transcript:

A family of a mentally challenged individual youth in his 40s. He needed to be in a group home facility eventually, because as he grew older and he became a man it was difficult for his, after his father passed away, for his mother to continue to care for him. His family stayed very much involved in his life and they were very concerned about placing him in a facility that would care for him. That when they couldn’t care for him appropriately, the facility that he was in would take care of his needs and make sure that he was safe. That was really important to them. Unfortunately just like a child would be and he was like a child, he was having dinner in the facility one night and he started kicking his feet back and forth just like a little kid would do. And instead of them trying to redirect and perhaps move him they told him to stop. And then there was a little altercation with another resident where the other resident threw water and they came over and restrained him. They grabbed him and placed him on the ground on his belly. And restrained him in this fashion holding him down, four seconds, until he was no longer able to breathe. There was somebody, their policy set forth that there was somebody that was supposed to maintain his vital signs and make sure that he was able to breathe. He was screaming that he you know for some period of time that “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” But after that, he was not able to talk and he had died.

The person that was supposed to be maintaining his vital signs was emptying a dishwasher, going back and forth emptying a dishwasher, rather than taking care of him and making sure that he was safe. The family came to us to see if there was anything wrong if this is the way he should have been restrained or there was something inappropriate. And sure enough we found that there was something inappropriate that an individual should never be restrained like this. It’s not a safe way to restrain an individual and as a result of trying the case and then getting the case settled we got the family compensated. And we also and the mom it was very important to her that we changed policy so that they will never restrain individuals in this facility like that again.

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