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The sister of a resident at New Lisbon Development Center in Burlington County, New Jersey has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the center, claiming that her brother was abused and neglected by staff at the facility and ultimately froze to death while in the facility’s care.

The civil suit by Joyce C. Manley of Florida was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Camden. It names the state of New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez, other officials from the department’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, and the New Lisbon center.

The suit claims Manley’s brother, 58-year-old James Hollis Jr., died Dec. 11, 2009, after he was taken to Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly with hypothermia, a broken hip and several broken ribs. –PhillyBurbs.com

New Lisbon Development Center, run by the State of New Jersey, is a living facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Hollis, who was born developmentally disabled, had lived at the center since the mid-1980s.

According to the lawsuit, facility staff did not notice that Hollis had a broken hip one morning, when he was also having trouble standing and dressing. An hour later, Hollis was discovered unable to stand, minimally responsive, and hypothermic, and was taken to the hospital, where his core body temperature measured only 84 degrees. As a result of his hip fracture, a liter of blood had also gathered in his hip. The Burlington County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that hypothermia, complicated by the neglected hip fracture, caused Hollis’ death.

Unfortunately, this is far from the first time the New Lisbon Development Center has been accused of wrongdoing:

In 2003, a federal report concluded that living conditions there were dangerous after investigators documented 4,400 potentially harmful incidents, including 242 classified as major because they involved broken limbs or cuts requiring stitches.

As a result, the center was monitored until about August 2009.

A 2001 report by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also detailed deficiencies at the center, notably understaffing. That same year, there were four fatalities; two were ruled accidental and two were classified as homicides. –PhillyBurbs.com

Incidents like this should never happen. State-run facilities like this need more government oversight, not less, and sufficient staffing with adequate pay and training. The fact that this facility has accumulated this many harmful incidents is appalling. Our hearts go out to the family of James Hollis Jr.

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