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A hospital hallway

The family of a woman who died while living in a state institution for the disabled accepted $1.4 million on April 2 to settle a Middlesex County suit, Centrella v. Woodbridge Developmental Center.

Maureen Doran had a severe intellectual disability, seizure disorder and bipolar disorder. She moved into Woodbridge Developmental Center at age 51 and lived there until her death at age 68 in September 2013, according to the estate’s attorneys.

The suit claimed Doran suffered a series of attacks that began in January 2013, around the time the state announced plans to close the center. Many of the incidents had no witnesses and no explanation, the plaintiffs claimed. The alleged incidents included an attack by a fellow resident who swung a chair at Doran, striking her in the face and head, although the state denied those charges, according to Susan Connors of Nagel Rice in Roseland, who represented the plaintiff along with the firm’s Bruce Nagel. Doran sustained a broken nose and damaged eye socket, and was hospitalized after that attack, Connors said.

She also endured bruises, bites and scratches inflicted by fellow residents, Connors said. On Aug. 23, 2013, Doran was found to have a displaced fracture of the left ankle, which required open reduction surgery with implantation of hardware. There were no witnesses to the incident that caused that injury, according to Connors. Doran was in great pain as a result of the injury but didn’t understand what was occurring, Connors said.

Returning to the center after hospitalization for her ankle injury, Doran was lying in bed while a caretaker fed her, but could not swallow because her bed was not elevated, according to Connors. Doran went into respiratory distress and died in a hospital three days later.

Doran’s estate filed suit against the Woodbridge Developmental Center and the state Department of Human Services, claiming negligence, personal injury, and deviation from the standard of care. The settlement was reached April 2, as trial was set to begin, and it includes a payout of $1.4 million. In addition, the state agreed to waive a $3.2 million Medicaid lien, Connors said.

John North of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis in Woodbridge represented the state defendants. He did not return a call about the case. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office didn’t provide comment on the case.

 — Charles Toutant

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Charles Toutant

Charles Toutant is a litigation writer for the New Jersey Law Journal.

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Michael Booth

Trenton Bureau Chief New Jersey Law Journal American Lawyer Media mbooth@alm.com Twitter: @mboothnjlj

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