FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Barry C. Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director
(312) 341-0022, ext. 7317, (800) 537-2632
TTY (800) 610-2779
Byron Mason, Senior Attorney, ext. 338
Public Information Director
Equip for Equality Achieves Settlement in Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Developmental Disability Facility
Young Woman Died in 1999 Tragedy at Glenkirk
CHICAGO (July 8, 2003) -- Equip for Equality (EFE), the federally mandated and Governor designated Protection and Advocacy System for people with disabilities in Illinois, has achieved a confidential monetary settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed Oct. 24, 2000, in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The suit was brought on behalf of the estate of Jennifer Klimek, a 36-year-old woman with a severe developmental disability, against Glenkirk, the Glenkirk Housing Association and five individual defendants.
Jennifer, had a diagnosis of Prader-Willi Syndrom and her symptoms included early developmental delays, mental and functional retardation, short stature, and an insatiable and uncontrollable appetite that would result in serious health consequences if not carefully monitored. She died on Dec. 26, 1999 during the Christmas holidays that year, when she was transferred from a facility in north suburban Niles to a nearby Mount Prospect facility due to a staffing shortage. Because Jennifer's activities were not properly monitored when she was transferred, she ingested some harmful materials resulting in her death.
"The circumstances surrounding Jennifer's tragic and untimely death might have been averted," says Byron Mason, Senior Attorney for Equip for Equality, "but now, with this settlement, the Klimek family at least has some resolution. Since the filing of the lawsuit, we have been impressed with Glenkirk's commitment to improve the quality and safety of their vocational and residential services to individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities."
At the time of her death, Jennifer had been a resident of Glenkirk community facilities for about 14 years. She enjoyed a full and active life in the community, including partcipation in a day work program and shopping. She also liked to sing and ride her bicycle.
In its lawsuit, EFE sought compensatory damages for the estate of Jennifer Klimek (represented by her father and legal guardian Aloysious Klimek) for negligent acts and omissions of Glenkirk and its staff that resulted in her death. The complaint alleged Glenkirk failed to: properly monitor and supervise her ingestion of food and drink, utilize locks on all doors and cabinets to ensure her safety, to recognize the nature and severity of her medical condition on Dec. 26, 1999, to seek a timely medical consultation.
"Equip for Equality strongly supports the concept of integrated community living for people with disabilities. But to be successful, these programs must have adequate staffing, training and resources to meet the needs of each individual," said Zena Naiditch, EFE President and CEO.
"State funding for community programs and facilities for people with disabilities has been seriously inadequate for many years and this lack of funding puts the safety and well being of our most vulnerable citizens at risk. This is a crisis situation and we urge the Governor and the legislature to find alternative solutions to the state's fiscal dilemma to avert additional tragedies."
"In addition to the monetary settlement, Glenkirk has agreed to revise existing staff training practices, as well as other policies and procedures," said Barry C. Taylor, EFE's Legal Advocacy Director. "We are pleased that by bringing this law suit we have heightened Glenkirk's awareness for ensuring the safety of its residents and hopeful that these positive changes will make a significant impact on the lives of other people with disabilities."
Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit entity designated by the Governor to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy System for safeguarding the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois. It is the only comprehensive statewide advocacy organization providing self-advocacy assistance, legal services, disability rights education, public policy advocacy and abuse investigation.
For further information, contact Byron Mason at 312-341-0022, ext. 338, 800-537-2362 or TTY 800-610-2779.