An Albuquerque family has been awarded almost $900,000 nearly three years after their son died suddenly at a home tasked with caring for him.
Kevin Phillip DeAnda was 25 years old when he died in his sleep Dec. 31, 2008. He had moved into New Pathways Inc., a residential treatment center for people with developmental disabilities, in September 2007, according to court documents. It was under their care that DeAnda died a sudden and unnecessary death, his family claims.
A Bernalillo County jury found New Pathways negligent in DeAnda’s death after the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The DeAndas were awarded $899,000 in damages, records show.
Kevin suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, atypical childhood psychosis, asthma and obstructive sleep apnea. Mother Lori DeAnda, a vocal advocate for the mentally ill, said he also suffered from crippling depression and psychiatric issues that caused hallucinations and delusions.
In 2004, round-the-clock care had gotten to be too much for the family. They placed him in a home with nurses and staff who could watch him.
“Our household had become a crisis prevention setting. We moved him out because we felt if we turned over the crisis stuff to professionals, then we can get back to sleep at night and get back to being his parents,” Lori DeAnda said.
Kevin seemed to be doing well at New Pathways.
“He was very happy there,” Lori DeAnda said. “That was the sad part, is that he was extremely happy in that house, and he had two roommates that he adored and that adored him, and he got along well with staff. Because of that, we thought everything was OK.”
But one day, Kevin DeAnda never woke up.
An autopsy report showed he died of complications from obesity and obstructive sleep apnea, with mixed drug intoxication, the complaint states.
Attorneys for New Pathways did not return phone calls to their office this week.
Among the allegations made against New Pathways was that workers failed to check on DeAnda on an hourly basis, as they were supposed to.
What’s more, records showed DeAnda was being given Valium three times a day. But the autopsy report didn’t find Valium in his body – it found Oxycodone instead.
DeAnda didn’t have a prescription for Oxycodone, a powerful painkiller known for being highly addictive. DeAnda’s parents suspected he was given the wrong drug, but New Pathways claimed it was possible DeAnda got the Oxycodone on his own.
New Pathways denied any negligence.
In the end, a jury sided with the DeAndas.
That’s a relief for Lori DeAnda, who said all she wanted was justice for her son. She described Kevin as “a big teddy bear,” adding that he was very affectionate, loving and was a talented artist. Kevin also had a photographic memory.
“My goal in sharing my story is that somehow, someway, telling our story will shine light on the situation. Hopefully we can prevent another family from experiencing what we experienced,” Lori DeAnda said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal