County fined over nun's death

February 4, 2009 6:12:02 PM PST
A nursing home in Rockland County has been fined thousands of dollars for unsafe conditions. Summit Park operated by Rockland County is the first nursing home in the state to be fined the maximum $12-thousand dollars for unsafe conditions in the death of a resident.

Our investigation last fall reported how Sister Mary was killed when a newly-installed closet toppled over, crushing her.

The latest penalty brings the total fines against the county to $29-thousand dollars and it extracts an admission from the county that "substantial evidence of violations existed."

The family says that's not good enough.

"Because it wasn't a full admission and that's what myself and family would want -- full admission and that they take responsibility, full responsibility for their actions," her nephew Daniel Murray said.

Sister Mary's nephew and guardian says the nursing home led the family to believe her death was a freak accident.

Only after seeing our investigation did the family learn that two other people were previously injured when identical closets tipped over.

After Sister Mary's death, the home finally bolted the 300 closets to the wall.

"When you have closets that are over 200 pounds tipping over on your residents and all you do is bolt them as they're falling... that's gross negligence and in my opinion borders on the criminal," the family's attorney Kenneth Pryor said.

When I asked the head of the nursing home, why it took the death of Sister Mary before the closets were bolted, he refused to comment.

Since our initial report, the head of the nursing home was forced to resign and the head of maintenance was fired. The attorney general is stepping up its investigation into possible criminal negligence in the nun's death.

''They were well-aware of the danger or potential danger that these closets had to their patients," Murray said.

We have learned that the attorney general has served subpoenas in its on-going investigation into the nun's death.

The Rockland County Executive's Office did not respond to our request for a comment.

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