Nevada will pay a $600,000 settlement to the family of a man with an intellectual disability who died in 2015 after staff at the state institution where he was living failed to follow proper protocol.
The Nevada Board of Examiners on Thursday approved the settlement, which resolves wrongful death lawsuits brought after 33-year-old Julio Cesar Montes died from injuries sustained in an altercation with another resident. The payment comes after the family sought as much as $3 million in the case.
According to the lawsuits and documents stemming from a state investigation, Montes had a moderate intellectual disability and a shunt in his brain and was living in Las Vegas at the Desert Regional Center, a 48-bed care facility for people with developmental disabilities.
On Nov, 22, 2015, staff members took him and other residents to a Special Olympics bowling event. In spite of his signs of aggression and a known competitive relationship with another resident, staff sat Montes and his rival near each other in the van on the way home.
The two men got into an altercation while the van was on the freeway, and it took time before staff were able to pull over and break up the fight. The other resident had hit Montes in the head and with a shoe, and Montes apparently banged his own head against the window of the vehicle.
Witnesses and staff interviewed after the incident say Montes was checked but his injuries were not considered serious enough to seek more advanced medical care. One staff member said Montes sat on his bedroom floor, refusing to get up, vomited seven different times and appeared to have redness around the area of the shunt. He behaved sluggishly and was later found unresponsive on the floor surrounded with blood and vomit before an ambulance was finally called.
After brain surgery and several days in the hospital, Montes was moved to hospice and died on Dec. 4. His death was later ruled a homicide, with blunt force trauma to the head as a cause.
A subsequent investigation from the state’s Aging and Disability Services Division found a number of shortcomings in how staff responded after the altercation. Investigators noted a failure to protect clients from each other, a failure to recognize the seriousness of Montes’ condition and a failure to properly check on residents at night.
Six staff members were placed on administrative leave as a result of the incident. All returned back to work and were subjected to corrective or disciplinary action except one — a nurse who resigned in lieu of former discipline.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether any charges were filed by the district attorney in Montes’ death, and state officials said information about whether anyone was fired as a result is confidential. A lawyer for the family did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Among other things, the settlement specifies that a marker be placed near the cottage where Montes used to live, with the inscription “In Loving Memory of Julio Cesar Montes … Honored and Cherished by his Beloved Family.”