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New Jersey to Pay $53 Million Settlement Related to COVID-19 Deaths in Veterans Homes


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The state of New Jersey has agreed to pay a $52.9 million settlement to the families of 119 senior citizens, most of whom died of COVID-19 complications due to gross negligence at state-operated veterans homes.

In 2020, the state passed a law that gave nursing homes immunity from lawsuits related to COVID-19. However, the law didn’t apply to cases of extreme negligence. The lawyers for the deceased residents and remaining survivors contended that this case was grounds to an exception of the law.

Most of the claimants from the state veterans homes in Paramus and Menlo Park passed away, and the case took an emotional toll on the litigation team. One plaintiffs lawyer commented that the settlement is likely the largest related to COVID-19 in the country.

An official from Governor Phil Murphy’s administration told NJ.com that the families will receive an average of $445,000.

As NJ.com elaborated:

“Cases settle for a variety of reasons. The families of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 have gone through so much,” said the official. “This settlement will hopefully allow them to move forward without years of protracted and uncertain litigation.”

Two of the veterans homes — one in Menlo Park and a second in Paramus — reported some of the highest COVID-related death tolls in the nation. The coronavirus claimed the lives of more than 200 residents as the virus swept through the buildings, prompting the state to send in emergency assistance from the Veterans Administration and the National Guard.

 

Law.com added:

The state announced the settlement Thursday in claims on behalf of 119 residents of the state veterans homes in Paramus and Menlo Park. Most of the claimants died, but a few survived.

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The cases were settled before suits were filed, but lawyers for the families of the victims claimed in Tort Claims Act notices that management of the two veterans homes were grossly negligent and incompetent in responding to the pandemic.

Staff were ordered not to wear masks or gloves, so as to avoid alarming residents, according to tort claims notices filed in the case. Management also waited more than a month after the first patient was diagnosed with COVID-19 to isolate residents who tested positive for the virus, and continued to permit residents to congregate in common areas of the building after some contracted the virus.

In addition, management at the Menlo Park facility allowed staff who were infected or presumed to be infected to continue working, prevented staff from gaining access to personal protection equipment, and recklessly endangered the safety and well-being of patients and staff by failing to promptly implement appropriate measures, such as infectious disease outbreak plans, according to tort claims notices filed on behalf of deceased residents.

The state of New Jersey will pay 60% of the award in the first quarter of 2022 and the remainder on July 30, 2022.

Attorney Paul M. da Costa told NJ.com:

“No amount of money can ever obviously replace the lives of the lost veterans, but my clients and I are satisfied that this settlement provides a good measure of civil justice and accountability,” he said, adding that the fact a settlement had been reached before any lawsuits were actually filed, avoiding avoids years of protracted litigation, was “significant to my clients being able to work towards obtaining closure.”



 

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