$5 Million Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Grafton Group Home In Virginia | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

On December 23, 2004, 13-year-old Garrett Halsey died at the Grafton School Group Home in Winchester, Virginia. The boy suffered from autism and mental retardation but had no other health concerns. He had only been at the home for one day before his death.

The Winchester Star reports that the family of Halsey is reviving a $5 million wrongful death claim, which will be heard at the Winchester Circuit Court. The case is being reheard after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the dismissal of the case previously was a mistake made by Judge John Wetsel.

At the time of his death, the boy was being restrained by six aides at the group home. One staff member was reportedly on the young man’s back. Halsey choked on vomit and suffocated to death, according to court reports.

“Garrett’s restraint was continued while he vomited and [he] was not released by the staff until they noticed that his ear was blue,” the document states. “Vomiting is a sign of distress and everyone should have moved off of Garrett immediately and given him emergency treatment.”

A thorough investigation of the event by the Department of Education, Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, and Department of Social Services found that the Grafton staff was ill trained in restraining residents and unprepared to handle an emergency medical situation. The Halsey family agrees that the Grafton home was not prepared to treat their son and did not draw up a behavioral support plan that would keep their son healthy and safe.

The Grafton home disputed the findings and claimed that they did not show negligence or a lack of concern during the fatal event.

The judge in the 2007 case said that Grafton did not show gross negligence. The Supreme Court, however, has disagreed and sent the case back to trial. No court date has been set as of yet.

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