3 families file lawsuit after allegations of abuse at Bronx group home

Tuesday, May 3, 2016
3 families file lawsuit after allegations of abuse at group home
N.J. Burkett reports from the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.

MOTT HAVEN, Bronx (WABC) -- The allegations of abuse are gruesome and inhumane. Patients with disabilities, living in a group home, were punched, shoved, and had their heads smashed into walls.

A lawsuit filed by three of the patient's families says that New York State officials knew about the abuse.

It went on behind the walls for years; Beatings, emotional abuse, and unspeakable neglect. That's according to a lawsuit filed in federal court against the state-run Union Avenue IRA Group Home.

The victims were allegedly punched and kicked, spat on and denied food. All are adults with the developmental skills of toddlers.

David Lebowitz represents three families suing the home.

"In one summer several residents were rushed to the ER with black eyes within a few months of one another," said David Lebowitz, of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady.

"How do all these residents show up in an emergency room with black eyes and there's no paper trail that leads back to the group home?" Eyewitness News Reporter N.J. Burkett asked.

"You know, I think people knew that these people were being hurt, and they just turned a blind eye to the fact that it was mistreatment, abuse, and neglect," Lebowitz said.

The allegations first surfaced in 2014, after a staff member-turned-whistleblower sent letters to the families describing the alleged abuse.

"Putting her in a corner behind a chair, spitting in her face, pulling her hair. And the other children, I mean, a busted eardrum," said Laura Kearins, a resident's sister back in 2014.

The lawsuit names six staff members and eight supervisors, and cites a top-to-bottom failure in a system with seemingly little accountability.

"You didn't have one or two bad apples, you had a culture of cruelty and sadism that ran unchecked for a period of years," Lebowitz said.