HOUSTON (CN) - The year after Texas promised the U.S. Justice Department it would end abuses at its state-run homes for the disabled, a state employee beat an autistic man to death in a state care center, where nurses failed to check his vital signs for two days "as he lay dying from internal injuries," the man's parents say.
Larry Taylor and Pamela Varnell sued the Richmond State Supported Living Center in Federal Court on behalf of the estate of their son David Taylor.
The Richmond State Supported Living Center aka The Richmond State School is one of 13 such facilities operated in Texas by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.
The late David Taylor was born prematurely at 26 weeks, and his disabilities were so severe "he never learned to speak or to communicate in any reliable way," his parents say. He was diagnosed with "severe autism and profound mental retardation," and admitted to the Richmond State School when he was 22 years old.
"Sometime thereafter the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) began a statewide investigation of Texas state schools regarding allegations of abuse, neglect and violations of patient's rights.
"On December 1, 2008 the DOJ issued their findings noting that the Richmond State School was cited for 36 deficiencies," the complaint states, citing, to begin: "a. Failure to ensure clients' rights were protected, including the right to be free from abuse, neglect, and mistreatment;
b. Failure to ensure that clients were free from unnecessary restraints and received active treatment ..."
The Richmond State School also was cited for understaffing, poor training, failure to investigate abuse, and failure to provide adequate health care.
The Richmond State School, and other state facilities, settled with the Justice Department in 2009 by agreeing to stop the abuses.
"Unfortunately, the State of Texas and Richmond SSLC failed to live up to their end of the settlement agreement," Taylor's parents say.
According to the complaint: "Sometime in the period around October 6th or 7th in 2010, when there was a paucity of supervision, David was violently beaten by Rivers Glover, an SSLC employee who was without appropriate training and without necessary support.
"After the incident David remained helplessly in his bed, simply dying from his internal injuries.
"Over the next 24-48 hours after the incident, Amara Oporanozie, a nurse at the Richmond SSLC, was supposed to have checked on David multiple times. She too was not correctly supervised, not sufficiently trained and in any case did not receive the necessary support to fulfill her duties correctly.
"In fact, the medical record evidences she failed to even once collect David's vital sign information. Had she collected such information, she would have been able to tell immediately that something was seriously wrong with David and he could have received the medical attention that could have saved his life.
"Instead, David was left to suffer until, on the morning of October 8, 2010, David was found in his bed with no pulse or respiration. Paramedics were called in but he was pronounced "dead on arrival" at 5:18 a.m. that morning. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to his abdomen rupturing his intestines.
"Due to his disability and his resulting inability to communicate, David was unable to complain to anyone if he was being abused or neglected, or whether or not he needed medical treatment."
His parents seek damages under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
They are represented by Martin Cirkiel of Round Rock.