Group home liable for injuries of resident hit by car, suit alleged
|Negligent Supervision, Worker/Workplace Negligence - Negligent Training, Motor Vehicle - Pedestrian|
|Derek Zukoski, by His Mother & Natural Guardian, Dawn Ross & Dawn Ross, Individually v. Miguel A. Maldonado & Long Island Adolescent Family Services Inc., No. 5821/02|
|Suffolk Supreme, NY|
|Paul J. Baisley Jr.
- Michael DellaUniversita; Gruenberg Kelly Della; Ronkonkoma, NY, for Derek Zukoski
- Vincent D. Finnegan; Callan, Koster, Brady & Brennan LLP; New York, NY, for Long Island Adolescent Family Services
- Brian J. Greenfield; Farber Brocks & Zane L.L.P.; Garden City, NY, for Miguel A. Maldonado
- Philadelphia Insurance Cos. for Long Island Adolescent Family Services
- Material Damage Adjustment Corp. for Maldonado
At about 11 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2002, plaintiff Derek Zukoski, 14, was struck by a motor vehicle. The incident occurred on Middle Country Road, near its intersection at Horse Block Road, in Centereach. Derek sustained injuries of a leg.
Derek, then a voluntary resident of a group home, suffered attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and he had been administered Ritalin and an anticonvulsant earlier in the day. He had also been getting harassed by other boys at the facility, and he had apparently left the facility to telephone his mother. The accident occurred during a snowstorm.
Derek's mother, Dawn Ross, acting individually and as Derek's parent and natural guardian, sued the vehicle's operator, Miguel Maldonado, and the group home's operator, Long Island Adolescent and Family Services. The plaintiffs alleged that Maldonado was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, that the group home's staff was negligent in its supervision of Derek, and that Long Island Adolescent and Family Services was negligent in its training of the home's staff.
Plaintiffs' counsel claimed that the home's staff knew that Derek left the premises at about 10:30 p.m. He contended that, given Derek's state, the harassment he had endured and the dangerous weather conditions, his departure should have been reported to the local police department.
Plaintiffs' counsel also claimed that Maldonado failed to exercise due caution. Maldonado's counsel did not dispute negligence.
Long Island Adolescent and Family Services' counsel contended that the home's staff was not aware that Derek had left the facility. He also contended that the agency's policies do not permit physical restraint of residents unless the resident presents a threat of harm to himself or others. He further contended that the policies specified that a resident's unauthorized departure would not be reported to police until one hour had passed.
Derek sustained fractures of his right leg's fibula and tibia. He was placed in an ambulance, and he was transported to a hospital, where his fractures were addressed via open reduction and internal fixation. He subsequently underwent removal of his fixation hardware. He also underwent several months of physical therapy.
Derek claimed that his right leg occasionally cramps and/or weakens after long walks, and he contended that he cannot engage in many physical recreational activities. He also bears residual scars and a disfiguring protrusion of his right leg's shin.
Derek sought recovery of damages for past and future pain and suffering. His mother initially presented a derivative claim, but her claim was ultimately discontinued.
The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. Maldonado's insurer tendered its policy, which provided $25,000 of coverage, and Long Island Adolescent and Family Services' insurer agreed to pay $175,000. Thus, Derek's recovery totaled $200,000.
This report is based on court documents, information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel and information that was provided by defense counsel.