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Family Sues New York State Facility for Torture and Abuse of Disabled Adult

This morning, the family of K.C. filed a lawsuit in federal court in Albany against staff at OD Heck Developmental Center, a New York State residential treatment center for the disabled. The lawsuit alleges serious abuse and mistreatment of K.C., a young, severely disabled man entrusted to their care. The complaint (beginning at ¶ 45) alleges that numerous New York State employees physically and verbally abused K.C., regularly berating him and referring to him as “it” and “the walking plague,” confining him to a space the size of a cage, and beating him with a wooden stick when he attempted to escape. A supervisor referred to the stick as “the magic wand.”

On February 28, 2011, K.C. was rushed to the hospital unconscious and placed on life support. K.C. had unexplained cuts and bruises, was severely malnourished, and was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. A month later, K.C. died at the age of 22.

“This disabled young man was treated like an animal,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel to the family, and a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “Such inhumane treatment, by so many people, for such a long period of time, is absolutely shocking.”

“The need for reform at OD Heck is urgent. Holding these staff members accountable is a good first step,” said Julia Einbond, also counsel to the family.

K.C.’s abuse was first publicly disclosed in a New York Times article on June 5, 2011. Since then, the New York State Office of the Inspector General has investigated the case, apparently without conclusion. It is not clear if any New York State employee has yet been disciplined as a result of these allegations.

A copy of the complaint is available  here. To read the New York Times article about the case, click  here.

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ECBA Files Lawsuit Alleging Neglect and Mistreatment at Brooklyn Group Home

On July 18, 2012, ECBA filed a lawsuit in federal court against Eihab Human Services, Inc., alleging serious neglect and mistreatment of B.W., a young autistic man who was in the facility’s care. Over the course of his stay with Eihab, B.W. was taken to the hospital on six separate occasions. One of those occasions occurred following an incident in which B.W. nearly choked to death on a corncob, the result of grossly inadequate supervision and staff training. In the wake of the choking incident, the complaint alleges, the facility and its employees continued to mistreat B.W. and ignored his medical needs. Within three months, he became severely malnourished, his weight dropping to a mere 56 pounds. In addition to Eihab’s neglect, the lawsuit also alleges that B.W. was frequently left unattended in soiled clothing and suffered numerous unexplained bruises and cuts. B.W. is represented by ECBA’s Ilann M. Maazel, Elizabeth Saylor, and Jessica Clarke.

To read more about the case, go to  nydailynews.com or  nytimes.com. To read the complaint, click  here.

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Jonathan Carey Case Settles for $5 Million

September 22, 2011 – New York State will pay $5 million to settle two wrongful death lawsuits brought by Michael and Lisa Carey, whose son Jonathan died in 2007 while living in a State facility for the disabled. Jonathan, an autistic 13-year-old, was asphyxiated and killed by a State employee while on a community outing. Two State employees have been criminally convicted as a result of Jonathan’s death.

The case helped bring attention to the severe institutional dysfunction of New York State’s care for the disabled. For years, the institutions dedicated to caring for some of New York’s most vulnerable residents have exhibited systemic deficiencies in health and safety standards, abuse investigation and reporting, and employee qualification. The Careys, who have become some of New York’s most outspoken advocates for disability rights, hope that the case will prompt serious reform to fix a broken system. The Carey family is represented by ECBA’s Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman.

To read the press release, click  here. To read the New York Times article about the settlement, click  here.

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ECBA Files Lawsuit against Realty Firms and Landlord for Discrimination against New Yorkers Living with AIDS

ECBA filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that four New York City real estate companies and the owner of a Manhattan apartment building discriminate against people with AIDS who do not work and have a monthly housing rental subsidy from the City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA). The Complaint alleges that the defendants refused to show apartments, segregated rental listings according to source of income, and told prospective renters that landlords would not rent to them. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by ECBA’s Diane L. Houk and Housing Works.

For more information on the case, go to:  fairhousingjustice.org.

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Jonathan Carey Case Profiled in New York Times

A front-page New York Times article on the failings of New York State’s institutions for the developmentally disabled focused on the case of Jonathan Carey, a 13-year-old with autism who died while under institutional care in February 2007. A state employee, who had worked for fifteen days straight and for nearly 200 hours just before the incident, was convicted of asphyxiating Carey in the back of a van as he was being transported. The employee had a previous criminal record when he was hired at the facility.

The article was deeply critical of the State’s institutions, calling them “a system in disarray.” In addition to the Carey case, the article documented other stories of abuse, emotional and physical, as well the institutions’ poor safety and living conditions. Since 2005, seven of the nine institutions dedicated to caring for the developmentally disabled have failed New York State Health Department inspections. The Times article further critiqued the institutions’ deficient qualification standards for employees and consistent failures to conduct meaningful investigations into abuse allegations. The Carey family is represented by ECBA attorneys Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman.

To read the article, click  here.

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Brooklyn Judge Rejects Mayor’s Budget Cuts to HIV/AIDS Services Administration

Federal Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak ruled that the Bloomberg administration cannot implement its proposed budget cuts to the City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration. Planned reductions would have cut 254 case managers from the agency’s staff and dealt a serious blow to HASA, which provides crucial benefits and social services to tens of thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Ruling that the cuts violate both a City law governing manager-to-client ratios and a federal court order, Judge Pollak has given the City thirty days to comply with her decision. If the City does not reverse its position, she will issue an enforcement order preventing the cuts. The motion for a temporary restraining order against the City was filed by Matthew Brinckerhoff of ECBA, Virginia Shubert, the HIV Law Project, and Housing Works.

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Federal Judge Denies Real Estate Company’s Motion to Dismiss

Federal District Court Judge Batts denied a motion to dismiss a disability and source of income discrimination lawsuit brought by ECBA and the Urban Justice Center on behalf of a formerly homeless disabled man and a non-profit fair housing organization against 20 real estate companies and brokers. The motion was filed by Queens-based Bayside NY Homes LLC d/b/a Keller Williams Realty. Judge Batts found that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged disability discrimination in their Complaint against the Queens-based real estate company based on a disparate impact theory of liability. ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Elizabeth Saylor represent plaintiff Fair Housing Justice Center in the matter.

To read the Order, click
here.

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Disabled Riders Challenge MTA’s Transit Cuts

Mobility impaired transit riders filed a lawsuit against the MTA and New York City Transit challenging the city-wide cuts to bus lines that began on June 27, 2010. The suit alleges that these service reductions have left the City’s disabled riders without public transportation service comparable to that provided to non-disabled people, in violation of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So far the cuts have eliminated 89 bus lines, forcing many New Yorkers to find alternative means of transport and stranding those who are unable to take the subway or walk to farther bus stops. Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA, together with South Brooklyn Legal Services and the New York Legal Assistance Group.

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