A New York Court of Claims judge has approved a $5 million settlement for two wrongful death cases arising from the tragic death of Jonathan Carey. On February 15, 2007, Jonathan, a 13-year old autistic boy, was asphyxiated and killed by his caregiver at OD Heck, a New York State facility for the disabled. Jonathan was in a van on a community outing with two OD Heck developmental aides. An autopsy ruled the death a homicide, and both OPWDD employees — Edwin Tirado and Nadeem Mall — were convicted on criminal charges.
Jonathan’s parents brought a federal civil rights case again Tirado, Mall, and various supervisors at OD Heck, and a state case against the State of New York. The cases revealed that Tirado had a prior criminal record, and Mall had been fired four times for cause by agencies serving the disabled. The Carey’s noted that supervisors at OD Heck then permitted a visibly exhausted Tirado to work for 197 hours in the two weeks prior to the killing: 15 days in a row, including 14 night shifts and 10 double shifts.
“Our son Jonathan was a precious gift from the Lord, and we miss him every day,” said Michael and Lisa Carey, Jonathan’s parents. “Nothing can bring Jonathan back, but we hope his case will be a catalyst for further necessary reform to protect vulnerable, disabled children and adults.”
“This settlement brings some measure of accountability from the State of New York for this terrible tragedy, but much more must be done,” said the family’s lawyer, Ilann M. Maazel, of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “We remain deeply concerned about systemic problems plaguing New York State’s care for the disabled, and will continue to advocate for disabled people in State care until this system is dramatically reformed.”