ST. LOUIS (CN) – The State of Missouri will pay $655,000 to the mother of a mentally retarded man who was scalded to death during a bath. Rutherford Wallace was 24 when he died on March 16, 2006, days after the scalding bath at the state-run Northwest Habilitation Center in St. Louis County.
A hospital worker tried to cover up the injuries by not calling for immediate medical help and Wallace could not walk or talk, according to documents in the case. His death was ruled a homicide, but nobody has been charged criminally for the death.
Linda Harris, Wallace’s mother, will receive $655,000 from the state and an undisclosed amount from Powers Hydroguard, the company that made the device that allowed the scalding water to flow through the pipes.
The settlement was filed in Federal Court and was approved by Judge Mary Ann L. Medler.
The fatal bath was given on March 10 when workers were bathing all of the Northwest residents. All the employees knew the water heater’s temperature gauge was not working, court records state.
Wallace’s worker put him into a tub strapped into a carrier so that he could not move. The worker failed to test the water before rinsing Wallace off. It had become scalding hot and the worker sprayed Wallace all over his lower body.
Instead of calling 911, workers put Wallace to bed and waited for his skin to start falling off. Then they called a private ambulance service, not 911, pursuant to state regulations. Wallace died six days later with burns over most of his body.
Harris claimed that her son had to have been writhing, yelling and trying to show that he was in excruciating pain, but the workers did nothing to help him. Northwest fired two workers after Wallace’s death, court papers state.
News of the settlement comes 11 days after the state entered into a $345,000 settlement with the mother of another patient who died at Northwest. Michael Pallme was also 24 when he died in November 2005 from a bowel obstruction caused by a swallowed pen. Pallme suffered from pica, an uncontrollable urge to swallow anything available.