Our firm recovered a record breaking settlement on behalf of a client injured while under the care of state employees. While at Copper Lake School for Girls in Irma, Wisconsin, the client suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury. Staff failed to intervene in a timely manner allowing the preventable injury to occur.
Call for help ignored
The client suffered from depression and anxiety and had a history of self-harm tendencies. On November 9, 2015 the client alerted staff that she needed help by turning on the call light in her room. Facility policy required staffers to respond to call lights immediately. Although the light was clearly visible from numerous locations where staff members were stationed, it took them nearly 24 minutes to respond to the call light.
By the time workers arrived they found the girl hanging from her door, with no pulse or respirations. A medical expert determined the girl had only been hanging for two to five minutes when staff arrived. Staff revived the victim using CPR and a defibrillator, but she suffered a permanent brain injury from lack of oxygen. It was months before she regained the ability to speak or to recognize others and she spent nearly two years in a brain rehabilitation center.
Deliberate indifference and false accounts
Although she had engaged in self-harm a couple of weeks before the accident and expressed suicidal thoughts to the institution psychiatrist, the institution had not placed her on observation status. The facility required mandatory 15 minute “hall checks” on inmates, but staff had not checked on the client for 42 minutes.
While researching the case, lead attorney Eric J. Haag discovered school staff falsified the log for the mandatory hall checks. Haag’s inquiry also found the institution’s post-incident investigation critically lacking. It contained incomplete interviews from staff and false accounts of the client’s mental health history.
The state senate recently voted to close Cooper Lake School for Girls and the adjoining Lincoln Hills School for Boys. The shared campus institution is the subject of an FBI investigation and other ongoing lawsuits.
Historic recovery for ongoing care
Following the injury the client suffered memory loss and has the cognition of a child. She is now wheelchair bound and resides in an adult family home. She will require continuing care for the rest of her life. Funds from the settlement will go towards her ongoing life care needs and medical expenses.