NM settles second wrongful death lawsuit at vets home - Albuquerque Journal

NM settles second wrongful death lawsuit at vets home

A hallway at the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences. the state has reached a settlement to resolve a wrongful-death lawsuit centering on the home. (Courtesy Department of Health)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The state of New Mexico has reached a $380,000 settlement to resolve a wrongful-death lawsuit centering on the veterans home in Truth or Consequences – where legislative analysts say a deadly COVID-19 outbreak was exacerbated by inadequate state oversight.

It’s the second wrongful-death case settled since mid-September, bringing the total payout to $680,000. A third lawsuit – a class-action complaint on behalf of residents who died – is pending.

Deficiencies at the veterans home also have cost the state $180,000 in federal penalties since 2018.

In an interview Tuesday, acting Health Secretary David Scrase said independent evaluations conducted on behalf of the federal Medicaid agency last month show the veterans home has addressed its deficiencies.

Furthermore, he said, the state is constructing new buildings – similar to group homes – at the site, which will provide a more comfortable, home-like setting as part of a $60 million project. At least some of the residences should be ready by fall 2023.

The state settled, Scrase said, to avoid the cost of ongoing litigation.

“I think of settling as a way to efficiently protect taxpayer dollars,” he said.

The $380,000 settlement resolved a lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of Richard Zimpel, a veteran and resident of the New Mexico State Veterans Home, a state-run nursing facility about 150 miles south of Albuquerque.

Zimpel was a 90-year-old veteran in reasonably good health when he was admitted into the home in August 2020, according to the lawsuit. Employees told his family the facility was a safe place, the suit said, and they reported no cases of COVID-19 at the veterans home immediately before his admission.

But Zimpel contracted the virus and died in early December 2020.

The 17-page legal complaint alleges the Department of Health’s own inspections found “numerous serious deficiencies” in infection control, contributing to the worst COVID-19 outbreak at any DOH facility.

The suit includes claims of negligence and wrongful death.

The state of New Mexico denied the claims and sought dismissal of the suit.

The settlement came after a similar lawsuit was resolved for $300,000 on behalf of Vietnam veteran Rickey Lee Widener, who died the same day as Zimpel.

A class-action lawsuit – proposing to cover other residents who died of COVID-19 at the veterans home – is pending in the state’s 1st Judicial District. It estimates at least 36 residents died of a preventable coronavirus outbreak at the veterans home.

Frank T. Davis, an Albuquerque-based attorney who filed the class-action lawsuit, said he and others “will continue to pursue justice for all these families.”

He also represented Zimpel’s estate.

“It is my firmly held belief that all of the Veterans who died as a result of the NMSVH’s Covid debacle, and their families, deserve the same type of the justice that has been provided to the families of Messrs. Widener and Zimpel,” Davis said in a written statement Tuesday.

In 2021, a report presented to state legislators said the deadly outbreak at the veterans home in late 2020 was exacerbated by inadequate state oversight.

The U.S. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services cited the home for deficiencies repeatedly between 2015 and 2020, according to the Zimpel lawsuit.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » NM settles second wrongful death lawsuit at vets home

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
New Mexico seems determined to extend class time. What ...
ABQnews Seeker
Three competing proposals are on the ... Three competing proposals are on the table
2
New NM health secretary learning on the job after ...
ABQnews Seeker
Patrick Allen heads a key agency ... Patrick Allen heads a key agency on the front lines of the state’s pandemic response, after leaving behind a lengthy state government career in ...
3
Kenneth H. Martinez, 1954-2023: Former district judge ‘was good ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque native, 2nd Judicial District Court ... Albuquerque native, 2nd Judicial District Court judge had a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease
4
New Mexico bill would ban contracts for migration detention
ABQnews Seeker
Recently introduced bill could unwind contractual ... Recently introduced bill could unwind contractual arrangements at Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral
5
Native American leaders: Educational trust fund will be key
ABQnews Seeker
Native American leaders said creating a ... Native American leaders said creating a special $50 million trust fund to help finance educational p ...
6
Agency delays protections for imperiled bat, prairie chicken
ABQnews Seeker
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced ... U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced new designations for the lesser prairie chicken set to take effect bumped to March 27
7
No drama for birthday llama: ABQ llama celebrates 27th ...
ABQnews Seeker
'This llama is bringing everyone together,' ... 'This llama is bringing everyone together,' says family friend
8
New Mountain West Commissioner Nevarez gives nod to former ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mountain West Commissioner Gloria Nevarez ... New Mountain West Commissioner Gloria Nevarez discusses her new job in an ever-evolving college athletics landscape.
9
Talking Grammer, Ep. 59: MWC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez
ABQnews Seeker
In Episode 59 of the podcast, ... In Episode 59 of the podcast, we had a conversation with new Mountain West Conference Commissioner Gloria Nevarez.