Survivors of man who choked at home for disabled file suit

February 15, 1994

The family of a 44-year-old man who died in 1992 after he choked at an Annapolis-area home for the disabled filed a $1 million suit yesterday against the home, alleging negligence.

The survivors of William D. Bell, a resident of Langton Green nursing home outside Annapolis, claim the staff waited more than an hour before taking Mr. Bell to Anne Arundel Medical Center after he choked on a peanut butter sandwich April 21, 1992.

Mr. Bell, described in court papers as being severely retarded, died at the hospital at 3:02 p.m., about an hour and 45 minutes after he got up from lunch and began "breathing heavily and gasping for breath."

He was told to lie down and then taken to an office area where "no emergency equipment or personnel were available" before a supervisor arrived and sent him to the hospital.

The suit names as defendant Langton Green Inc., the Annapolis-based company that operates the residential facility for the developmentally disabled.

The suit alleges that medical personnel at Langton Green's Alternative Living Units section, on the 3000 block of Arundel-on-the-Bay, where Mr. Bell lived since 1987, knew that Mr. Bell had a history of choking.

A month before his death, paramedics took Mr. Bell to the hospital because he had choked on another peanut butter sandwich, the suit alleges.

Emergency room records from that visit noted that Mr. Bell had problems "choking on foods several times in the past," the suit alleges.

The suit says that Mr. Bell's death was investigated by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and that its investigators issued a statement saying the home was deficient in how it handled the incident.

Langton Green breached its duty to care adequately for Mr. Bell by "failing to change his diet after the March 1992 choking incident," and by failing to monitor him while he ate, the suit alleges.

A spokesman for the company declined comment yesterday.

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