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Group Home Faces Trial Over Killed Autistic Man

HOUSTON (CN) - Parents of an autistic man who was allegedly beaten and left to suffer by staffers at a Texas-run home can advance discrimination claims, a federal judge ruled.

Larry Taylor and Pamela Varnell say their son David Taylor died in October 2010 while in permanent residence at the Richmond State Supported Living Center (RSSLC).

During an assault on David Taylor, staff member Rivers Glover pushed the young man, causing him to hit a pole and rupture his small intestine, according to the federal complaint filed in October 2011.

Taylor died three days later because registered nurse Amara Oparanozie allegedly failed to monitor his vital signs.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas refused Friday to toss the family's claims for relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

She noted that the facility failed to show " that plaintiffs' claims are doomed by their failure to identify in the pleadings a specific comparator, i.e., non-disabled or less disabled individuals to whom RSSLC's policies, practices, and/or customs were applied more favorably."

David Taylor, 28, was among the most severely retarded residents living at the facility, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiffs allege that it was David's extremely severe disabilities that were the basis of the omissions or affirmative mistreatment he experienced, and infer that there was training and care suitable for other less disabled patients," Atlas wrote. "In any event, the law is unclear whether a comparator is necessary under the ADA and Section 504. The court finds plaintiffs' theories somewhat novel, given that RSSLC is an institution that handles only patients with disabilities, but plaintiffs' theories do not appear to be precluded by any reported cases cited by the parties or that the court has located independently."

Texas has charged both Glover and Oparanozie with felony injury to a person with a disability. A jury trial in Fort Bend County is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2013.

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