MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state will pay more than half a million dollars to the estate of a man who committed suicide four years ago at Mendota Mental Health Institute, settling a lawsuit that accused hospital staffers of being negligent in his care.
A Dane County judge dismissed the wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday after the settlement was reached, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
The lawsuit was filed by Nancy Barton of Oneida, after her son, 27-year-old Jason M. Peters, strangled himself with a sock in a seclusion room in 2010. Peters was to be checked on every 15 minutes but staffers didn’t notice his death for 18 hours, the lawsuit said.
Barton’s lawyer, Mary Kennelly, said Barton was “very pleased” with the settlement and happy she can finally put the tragedy behind her.
The state was represented by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Department spokeswoman Dana Brueck declined to comment.
Peters, who was schizophrenic, was brought to Mendota in April 2009 and placed in seclusion in March 2010 after fighting with staffers. During the next few weeks, he was restless, anxious and often knocked on his door.
He was found dead on April 8 with a sock wrapped tightly around his neck. In the preceding 18 hours, staffers noted only that he appeared to be sleeping.
After his death, the state Division of Quality Assurance cited Mendota for failing to “take reasonable steps to ensure the physical safety of all patients.” The facility agreed to improve its training and require that staffers who conduct security checks ensure that patients are breathing.
The improvement plan has been put in place, but no staff members were disciplined, Department of Health Services spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley said.
As part of the agreement, the state does not admit any liability and says it settled to avoid litigation and “buy their peace.”
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj