Over five years after a man was beaten to death inside the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, his family is finally getting closure. His survivors reached a financial settlement for $544,000 in their civil lawsuit against the state of Michigan. The state will also cover $281,000 in attorneys fees and court costs. Sadly, however, the victim’s wife, sister, brother, and daughter have all passed since the filing of the lawsuit. The settlement was approved by his other family members in Michigan.The victim, a World War II veteran who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, was attacked in April 2012 by another patient. He passed away just days after the attack from injuries he sustained during it, and the Kent County medical examiner ruled it a homicide. The prosecutor, however, did not file criminal charges. The prosecutor reasoned that he did not wish to compound the tragedy by prosecuting the suspect, who was also in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. He concluded that prosecuting him in addition would accomplish nothing, particularly since he likely has no memory of the attack.
In World War II, the victim fought Nazis in France and Belgium. After the war, he lived in Lansing with his wife and their children after he retired from working at General Motors.
In 2011, he developed severe dementia. He wanted to be with fellow veterans, and his family believed the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans was ideal for him. He was placed in a secure unit at the home but would still wander from his room occasionally.
In the civil lawsuit, his family argued that the workers at the home were negligent in failing to adequately protect the victim. He was struck in the head when he wandered into the other man’s room after escaping from the dementia unit, which was allegedly secured. The victim apparently tried to climb into the other man’s bed and was punched in the face. According to the lawsuit, he had been previously assaulted by the 86-year-old man, described by staff as territorial. The family’s attorney argued the state should have done more to ensure the safety of the veterans. He argued they were “continually at risk,” and our country’s veterans “just deserve better than that.”
The state of Michigan originally filed for summary disposition, claiming it was immune from suit pursuant to section 691.1407 of Michigan’s Compiled Laws. The statute provides, in pertinent part: “Except as otherwise provided in this act, a governmental agency is immune from tort liability if the governmental agency is engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function.” The Michigan appeals court, however, sided with the family because the negligence claimed by the family was related to his treatment. (“This act does not grant immunity to a governmental agency or an employee or agent of a governmental agency with respect to providing medical care or treatment to a patient.”) The Michigan Supreme Court denied the state’s motion, and eventually the state agreed to settle.
The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans has a long history of complaints from residents. In 2016, a state audit found numerous problems with facility staffing and resident care. The audit revealed the home falsely claimed they were checking on patients, failed to adequately investigate allegations of neglect and abuse, and took too long to fill prescriptions.
The wrongful death attorneys at the Neumann Law Group represent families throughout Michigan from offices in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Call us at (231) 463-0122 or at (616) 717-5666 for a free consultation.
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