A New York aged care facility has been ordered by a jury to pay compensation to the family of a nursing home resident who choked to death.
Six years after Salvatore Niosi, 82, choked to death on Dec. 13, 2013, a Suffolk County Court ruled the Woodhaven Care Center in Port Jefferson Station was at fault for the elderly wheelchair-bound man’s death.
A nurse at the center allegedly forgot to read Niosi’s medical chart, which specifies pureed food only. She was also accused of not inserting his dentures before feeding him a sandwich, resulting in him choking to death within a few minutes.
Duffy & Duffy Trial Counsel Clifford Argintar, who was acting for Niosi’s family members, described the man’s suffering as “terrible.”
“Suffocating to death, even if for a short period of time, is a terrible way to die,” he said, according to the New York Post.
— New York Post (@nypost) April 23, 2019
Argintar said during Niosi’s six-year stay at the facility he suffered from multiple strokes that left him immobile, relying on a wheelchair, unable to speak, and experiencing challenges in swallowing. Health professionals determined he should only be fed pureed food.
Argintar also claimed staff at the center took between 20 and 30 minutes to phone 911 after noticing Niosi was choking.
The autopsy report confirmed Niosi died from choking caused by “food material in [the] airway.”
Daughter Silvia Teixiera, 41, sued the center for wrongful death back in June 2015. She said the timing of the death was unfortunate as Niosi did not witness the birth of his granddaughter just 10 months after he passed away.
“It would have been nice for him to know he had another grandchild,’’ Teixiera told the Post. “It’s sad that he had to go in that way and that he had to have panic in his face and that I wasn’t there with him.”
A representative from the center admitted fault at the four-day trial and the jury only needed to decide how much compensation should be paid for Niosi’s suffering.
However, the center now appears to be counter-suing Niosi’s next-of-kin because the family allegedly owes money for his stay at the nursing home due to an administrative mistake on his Medicaid application form.
Lawyer Michael Regan, who is advising on the victim’s estate, is concerned if the center wins the counter lawsuit it could set a worrying precedent.
“My position is that the nursing home shouldn’t financially benefit from killing this guy,’’ Regan told the Post.
“My position is that the nursing home shouldn’t financially benefit from killing this guy."
Teixeira described the counter lawsuit as an unpleasant “slap in the face.”
“It’s like they’re benefiting from his death,” she told News 12.
Family who won wrongful death lawsuit against nursing home is countersued https://t.co/eKsflkAY8g
— News12LI (@News12LI) April 23, 2019
She is optimistic that her earlier legal victory will lead to better patient care at Woodhaven, especially since the nurse blamed for Niosi’s death no longer works for the center.
Mediation between both parties about the latest lawsuit is scheduled to be held in May.