$1 Million Recovery for Family After Death of Adult at Group Home

A 45-year-old resident of an Ocean County group home died following the ingestion of an uncooked piece of sausage left out on the kitchen counter to thaw. Despite regulations prohibiting the thawing of uncooked food on a kitchen counter, and despite the victim having a diet restricted to pureed and finally chopped foods because of a risk of aspiration, the employees of the home also failed to closely monitor their resident with direct supervision when he came out of his room during the night. When the group home resident awoke to enter the kitchen, one of the staff was outside on a cigarette break, while the other staff member was in a different room watching television. Neither could see the resident enter the kitchen and take a piece of kielbasa. As the resident walked back to his room and tried to eat the sausage, it became lodged in his throat and caused him to choke and fall to the floor. When the staff heard the fall, neither performed the standard Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the food. It was not until EMS personnel arrived that anyone could perform the Heimlich maneuver. However, by that time, the resident had already suffered an anoxic brain injury and died in the hospital days later as a result.

The family sued the group home. Since the home was operated as a charitable institution, gross negligence had to be proven under NJ law in order to recover. Given the multiple instances of neglect that could be established, the home settled the matter with the resident’s family for $1,000,000.00. Blume Forte partner Michael Zerres represented the plaintiffs.