“JB” was born with cerebral palsy. He suffered extensive and irreparable brain damage from an infection in the womb that left him completely dependent on others after birth. He was unable to care for himself and could not perform any activities of daily living on his own. Although he was non-verbal and profoundly disabled, he used smiles, vocal sounds, and eye gazes for limited communication from an early age. As he developed, he was described as “usually very happy and quiet,” and he responded positively to stories, music, art, tactile stimulation, and interaction with adults. Unfortunately, his life would end too soon as a result of the horrific neglect he suffered at the hands of his mother and the home nursing service tasked with caring for this vulnerable individual.
Caregivers Fail in Their Duties to Safeguard a Severely Disabled Child
From the time of his birth, JB lived with his mother. His father was a truck driver and lived in another state. Throughout JB’s life, he was cared for by numerous nurses, doctors, relatives, and caseworkers, and was entirely dependent upon this care by others. Because of his severe disabilities and care needs, a home nursing service was hired through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. These nurses began caring for JB in his mother’s home seven days a week, for 12 hours each day, in 2004.
While this care should have helped support JB’s wellbeing, it later became clear that he had been neglected by his mother, the nurses, and the home nursing service, all of whom were supposed to have been taking care of JB in what became the last years of his life.
Shocking, Long-Term Neglect Ends a Young Boy’s Life
Although JB and his mother were provided with home nursing services, the neglect he suffered was gruesome—and nearly unbelievable. The doctors who later cared for him at the University of Chicago ranked the neglect among the worst they had ever seen. In the final months of his life, it became obvious that he had suffered terrible pain, malnourishment, and extreme neglect for a long period of time.
It was found that JB had not been bathed in more than a year. He was covered with deep, oozing pressure sores on his shoulder, buttocks, ear, legs, and hand. He did not have a wheelchair or braces, which is normally basic care for a child with cerebral palsy. His skin was flaky, and his hair was matted. There was a black, crusted patch on his tongue, and his teeth showed years of unattended plaque. His fingernails were long and dirty, and a social worker at the hospital noted a foul smell. He had lost at least 20 pounds over two years and was malnourished and dehydrated. The nurses later said that they had found JB lying in a pool of feces and urine in the home on several occasions. However, the home nursing service did not report any signs of this neglect to the authorities in the period he was under their care.
Despite what must have been obvious signs of neglect, neither of the in-home nurses called the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services hotline, as mandated by law. The nurses’ supervisor did not visit JB in person and, instead, took reports over the phone. Just days before his final hospitalization, the nursing supervisor completed a “Nursing Assessment” that—among other difficult-to-believe claims—described the boy’s general appearance as “well-nourished, well-groomed,” stated that his “nutritional needs are met,” and noted that JB’s mother had been “compliant with the Home Medical Regime.”
As a result of the extreme neglect he suffered, JB became dangerously ill due to sepsis from his deep bed sores, which was complicated by his malnourishment. Unfortunately, even with hospital care, he was unable to recover from these complications and died on May 15, 2008, at the age of 13. A forensic pathologist noted that death from sepsis stemming from bed sores is “very uncommon” because these issues are usually treated before becoming so severe. In fact, the neglect was so extreme and so obvious that the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on JB’s body mistakenly determined that his death was due to homicide.
Successful Representation Helps Protect a Boy’s Rights When He Is Unable to Speak for Himself
When JB was admitted to the hospital, and the truth of his neglect became obvious, his father approached Lane & Lane for help holding the nursing service accountable on behalf of his son, who would soon pass away from his poor condition. After skillful representation by Managing Partner Stephen Lane, the neglect and wrongful death case against the nursing service settled for $3 million. The funds obtained in the settlement will benefit JB's siblings. JB’s mother and both nurses were also prosecuted criminally.
JB died as a result of the extreme neglect of “professionals” who failed to protect him. They ignored and disregarded JB’s welfare, and they failed to report the neglect to authorities who could have intervened before that neglect became fatal. The work done by Stephen Lane on behalf of JB helps hold the nursing service responsible for the way this young boy was treated, and also serves as an example to other nursing services, nursing homes, and hospitals that there are consequences for neglect.
When care providers ignore their duties and fail to protect the wellbeing of their patients, especially those who cannot speak for themselves, they must be held responsible. If your family has been affected by the abuse or neglect of a nursing service or nursing home, you can get answers and take action to right the wrongs that have been done. You can talk about your circumstances confidentially with an experienced member of our legal team today by calling 312-332-1400.