This morning, the family of K.C. filed a lawsuit in federal court in Albany against staff at OD Heck Developmental Center, a New York State residential treatment center for the disabled. The lawsuit alleges serious abuse and mistreatment of K.C., a young, severely disabled man entrusted to their care. The complaint (beginning at ¶ 45) alleges that numerous New York State employees physically and verbally abused K.C., regularly berating him and referring to him as “it” and “the walking plague,” confining him to a space the size of a cage, and beating him with a wooden stick when he attempted to escape. A supervisor referred to the stick as “the magic wand.”
On February 28, 2011, K.C. was rushed to the hospital unconscious and placed on life support. K.C. had unexplained cuts and bruises, was severely malnourished, and was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. A month later, K.C. died at the age of 22.
“This disabled young man was treated like an animal,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel to the family, and a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP. “Such inhumane treatment, by so many people, for such a long period of time, is absolutely shocking.”
“The need for reform at OD Heck is urgent. Holding these staff members accountable is a good first step,” said Julia Einbond, also counsel to the family.
K.C.’s abuse was first publicly disclosed in a New York Times article on June 5, 2011. Since then, the New York State Office of the Inspector General has investigated the case, apparently without conclusion. It is not clear if any New York State employee has yet been disciplined as a result of these allegations.