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Family receives settlement over nursing home death

October 10, 2012 3:15:21 PM PDT
There is a big settlement for the family of a 90 year old nun, crushed and killed by a falling cabinet in a nursing home. Our investigation found that the cabinet not properly installed.

But it was only a few days ago that the parties responsible had to finally pay for their deadly mistakes.

When the family of Sister Mary Murray was told about her death, the nursing home told them it was a freak accident. A newly installed floor-to-ceiling cabinet had toppled onto the nun, killing her in what they were led to believe was a first-of-its-kind tragedy at the Rockland County-owned facility. The family was ready to accept that until they saw our Eyewitness News investigation that uncovered two other cases of residents at the home being seriously injured by falling cabinets.

"They didn't secure these other closets when they knew they had the propensity of falling," Daniel Murray, her nephew, said.

That negligence cost Sister Mary her life and cost the county and the cabinet maker nearly one million dollars in a settlement reached with the family just a few days ago.

"It wasn't just a slap on the wrist it was something that the people coming into power in the future will stand back and say, 'Whoa. I'm going to do the right thing,'" Murray said.

Smoking-gun evidence discovered by the family's attorney helped bring about the settlement and spared the family the pain of a trial. Attorney Kenneth Pryor had discovered that the cabinet maker had this warning label removed from all of the 360 newly installed cabinets....the label instructed the installers to ''securely attach'' the cabinets to the wall with "anchoring devices."

"The manufacturers had made the decision to remove these safety labels knowing the products would tip over without them. And they admitted that," Pryor said.

They were finally anchored to the wall after the third and fatal tipping that killed Sister Mary.

"You're the head of the nursing home. Why did it take the death of Sister Mary before the closets were bolted down?" I asked the administrator of the home.

"I can't answer that," the administrator said.

Following our investigation, the head of the nursing home was fired and the county was fined a record $17-thousand dollars for "jeopardizing resident health and safety." The family says they went to court for their Aunt and for those currently living in the county home.

"That Rockland County would never do this again to an individual. They're never going to go through what we went through," Murray said.

The County declined to comment on the settlement agreement. We should note that the most recent inspection of Summit Park by the Department of Health and Human Services found 10 deficiencies including failure to "ensure an environment free from accident hazards."

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