Choking Hazards and Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death Attorney

Wrongful death lawsuits arising out of choking-related deaths are back in the news. A family recently settled a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit arising out of the choking death of their autistic 19-year-old son. The death occurred during school hours. In addition to a monetary settlement, one condition of the settlement required the school district to set up a training program for employees who work with special needs students.

According to reports, the student attended a program for special needs students. He was “rushed to the hospital by an ambulance after choking on a chicken nugget.” The student had a form of autism that made him prone to aspiration and choking. Apparently, he almost died of a choking incident earlier.

His individual education plan(“IEP”) specified that he was to be attended by an aide at all times. It was also specified that he must be carefully watched while eating and have his food cut up “if needed.” In this case, the wrongful death lawyer discovered that the school district was not understaffed, such that the assigned aide was attending to another student when the choking incident occurred.

Once his airway was compromised by the chicken nugget, he had a seizure, due to inadequate oxygen to his brain. This is known as anoxic brain injury. Though he was transported to a nearby hospital, he died.

While a recovery in a wrongful death lawsuit will not bring back the deceased individual, lawsuits create an economic incentive for school districts and other caregivers to properly staff and train their staff to safely care for vulnerable individuals.

According to experts, a compromised airway can result in brain damage within several minutes. Death occurs shortly afterwards if the airway is not restored and the individual remains oxygen deprived. Several groups of individuals are at high risk for choking hazards, including children, the elderly and those with neurologic compromise, such as individuals with cerebral palsy, brain damage or autism. In a care setting, like a school, nursing home, nursery school or group home, a care plan or IEP is needed to both minimize the risk of choking and also respond appropriately when choking occurs. The basics of any safe plan include careful monitoring, limiting access to large pieces of food and slowing the speed at which individuals eat.

When an individual chokes to death, the surviving family members may consider bringing a wrongful death lawsuit Not only does a wrongful death claim serve the interests of justice, by compensating surviving family members for their loss, but it creates an important precedent establishing that inadequate staffing and training will not be tolerated. In this way, wrongful death lawsuits serve the interests of the public in general, not just the individual litigants.  If you have questions about a wrongful death case, you should contact a wrongful death attorney, in Cleveland, OH, like the office of Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co., L.P.A. to determine your rights.