Federal Court Rejects Motion to Dismiss the “Bronx Zoo” Group Home Lawsuit

On July 5, 2017 federal judge Paul A. Engelmayer denied motions brought by several New York State employees to dismiss a lawsuit filed by ECBA on behalf of family members of three developmentally disabled adults alleging rampant abuse and neglect at a State-run group home in the Bronx. In an opinion noting that the facts in the complaint were enough to “shock the conscience,” Judge Engelmayer upheld claims under city, state, and federal law, seeking both monetary damages and an injunction to protect residents’ civil rights. The decision finds that the lawsuit adequately alleged that state-employed facility staff “cruelly abused persons with disabilities for no valid reason, but instead out of malice, spire, impatience, or sport,” concluding that such “physical abuse of helpless persons cannot be said to serve a legitimate governmental interest in a civilized society.” The opinion also finds the allegations sufficient to claim that supervisors and administrators within New York State’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities were reckless in failing to stop the abuse, referring to an OPWDD Regional Director as “taking woefully insufficient action” and responding “minimally if at all” to abuse and neglect reports.

ECBA’s Ilann Maazel and David Lebowitz represent the plaintiffs. To read the opinion, click here. To read past coverage of this case, click here.

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