D.C. settles families' lawsuit over deaths at mental facility

April 03, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The government of the District of Columbia has agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of six residents of an institution for the mentally retarded, according to attorneys representing both sides.

Under the settlement agreement, to be made public tomorrow, the D.C. government, which admits to no wrongdoing, will pay the families $1.075 million.

Federal investigators said the deaths, the subject of an article in today's Los Angeles Times Magazine, constituted the worst example of institutional abuse and neglect in recent U.S. history.

The Justice Department's civil rights division had charged that at least nine residents of the now-closed institution, called Forest Haven, died between 1989 and 1990 as a result of substandard '' medical care after they contracted aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by feeding people while they are lying down.

The settlement came after a senior city medical officer gave a sworn deposition that the medical record of one of the residents who died was missing critical pages and appeared to be altered and after the disclosure that the city's own investigators had concluded that one doctor had provided substandard medical care to some of the residents who had died.

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