Empty wheelchair in a hallway. Empty wheelchair in a hallway.

The “Bronx Zoo” disability abuse case

Full Name: D.K. et al. v. Teams et al.

In what is believed to be one of the largest settlements of its kind in New York’s history, the firm obtained $6 million for three families of abused disabled residents in a State-run group home in the Bronx, known as the Union Avenue IRA. The lawsuit revealed years of shocking abuse and neglect in the Bronx home, including staff who gave disabled residents black eyes, pulled their hair, spit in their faces, kicked them, sexually abused them, withheld food from them, showered them in frigid water, and botched their medical care.

Under the settlement, the State will permanently relinquish control of the Union Avenue IRA to a nonprofit provider. Individual staff will never be permitted to reenter Union Avenue as long as any of the three disabled residents reside there.

Press Coverage

“From the very top to the very bottom, OPWDD failed my sister on every level. I hope and pray that all the individuals living at Union Avenue will now live happy, healthy, fear-free lives, once OPWDD turns over control of Union Avenue to a nonprofit provider,”

Laura Kearins, sister of one of the plaintiffs

“I’m completely saddened and heartbroken. How can people prey on the innocent with no remorse? We will move forward trying to repair the damage that was done,”

Barbara Melendez, sister to another plaintiff

“This is one of the most appalling disability abuse cases I’ve seen in over twenty years of practice. How could so many New York State employees brutalize so many people, for so long, while no staff or supervisor did a thing about it? This case is a wake-up call for massive reform in this State agency.”

Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel for the families, ECBAWM partner