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Family files wrongful death suit for group home death

After the Kern County coroner ruled that the death of a 27-year-old group home resident was a homicide, the victim's family believed the operators of the facility were attempting to cover up the involvement of employees in the man's death. Concluding that the death of their loved one was preventable, the family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Nankil Enterprises, the employee involved in a fatal altercation and the Kern Regional Center, a nonprofit that contracts care with various facilities. The lawsuit alleges that employees of Mountain View Ranch Residential Care were inadequately trained in using restraint techniques to stop a fight.

The incident reportedly occurred July 9 when the man was denied a request for a cigarette, and punched an employee. The man suffered from a genetic disability called Fragile X syndrome that causes cognitive, social and behavioral problems.

A surveillance video released by investigators at the family's request showed the victim being placed face down as employees and one resident tried to restrain him, using their weight to keep him pinned to the floor. Reportedly, no one checked the man's vital signs when he became unresponsive. Sheriff's deputies who arrived at the scene performed chest compressions and rushed the victim to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The Kern County prosecutor's office returned the case to the sheriff's department for further investigation and possible criminal charges.

Residential care facilities in the United States, including those in California, are required to provide care for residents and keep them safe from harm. If their failure results in a death, facilities, managers and staff members may be held criminally and civilly liable. Compensation could be awarded by a court for the family's loss of companionship, medical costs and emotional trauma.

Source: The Bakersfield Californian, "Video of death at group home released by family of the victim," Steven Mayer, Jan. 17, 2014

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