Most of us have at least one friend or family member who has some kind of special needs, so we know how painful it can be to see our loved ones being mistreated because of their physical or mental limitations. Sadly, as one local family discovered, sometimes they are not even safe in the state care facilities where many of them spend their lives. This is something that our San Diego injury attorneys know all too well. In 2007, a man named Van Ingraham passed away at the Fairview Developmental Center after suffering a severe spinal cord injury and a broken neck. Ingraham suffered from severe autism, which made him unable to speak, so he could not tell anyone what happened to him. He had lived at Fairview for 42 years and required around-the-clock care.
As with any death that occurs in a state run facility, an investigation was launched to determine what caused Van Ingraham’s injuries and, ultimately, his death. The investigation was conducted by an internal police force, and from the start there were signs that it was not being done properly. For example, only one photograph was taken on the day Ingraham sustained his injuries, and no one even bothered to collect fingerprints, blood samples, or other forensic evidence from his room.
Several doctors were asked to provide their opinions on how his neck and back were hurt. Two doctors said they believed he had been placed in a violent headlock, and at least one said that his death was a most likely a homicide. However, when the lead detective, a former nurse who had never worked a suspicious death case, compiled her report, there was no mention of these opinions. Instead, speculations were made that Ingraham’s broken neck and crushed spinal cord were the result of him falling out of his bed, a drop of about two feet. Given the severity of his injuries, doctors have said that it is highly unlikely a fall from that height would have had enough force to cause them.
In addition, detectives working the case overlooked evidence and contradictions that seemed to merit further investigation. They relied heavily on testimony from a blind patient to focus their attention on another patient at the facility, even though there was no real evidence of that patient being near Ingraham’s room at the time he was injured. Moreover, the detectives’ report noted that a caregiver altered Fairview’s log book after the incident occurred. The log book contains details of the activities for each patient at the facility and shows what each patient was doing at a certain time, as well as which caregiver was with the patient. Although they knew about that the log was changed, detectives did not follow up on that lead.
Now, several years later, as reports of San Diego nursing home abuse and neglect continue to rise, the Department of Developmental Services is finally looking into the case once again. California Watch, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, has put together files detailing other allegations of abuse at Fairview Developmental Center. According to an article by local news station 10 News, there have been hundreds of reports filed alleging abuse or neglect that have then been dropped without further investigation.
Other patients are not waiting for the state to take action. Sometimes, the best way to help end a problem is by meeting it head on in the justice system. Victims and their families can turn to a San Diego injury attorney to help them seek justice for their loved ones and put an end to the neglect and abuse that has been allowed to continue for far too long.
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