LINCOLN — A Lincoln mother won a civil lawsuit that alleged the care her son was given at the Beatrice State Developmental Center nearly cost him his life.
Gage County District Judge Paul Korslund on Wednesday awarded $150,000 plus legal fees to Sandra Ham, who sued on behalf of her son, Ian Ham.
The court made the award after finding Dr. Hai Tran, a physician at the center, negligent in not discovering that Ham's feeding tube had been placed improperly in August 2008.
The suit faulted center staff for failing to prevent Ham from pulling out a feeding tube that was inserted to deal with swallowing problems. He was rushed to Beatrice Community Hospital, where the tube was improperly reinserted without sedation.
According to the judge's findings, Tran ordered staff at the center to feed Ham, then 24, through the tube, despite concerns expressed by a nurse and despite not examining Ham after the tube had been reinserted.
Because the tube was placed incorrectly, food went into his abdominal cavity, where it caused pain and infection. He suffered permanent injuries as a result.
Russ Reno, a spokesman for the State Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the Beatrice center, said state officials are reviewing the ruling.
Bruce Mason, the family's attorney, noted the case is the last legal action stemming from several years of troubles at the state-run institution.
Continued quality of care problems and abuse at the center led to the loss of Medicaid funding and intervention by the U.S. Justice Department.
The center has regained its Medicaid certification and funding in the last couple of years.
It now cares for about 135 people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. Most also have physical disabilities or mental health problems.
Many former residents have moved out. Ham was among 47 medically fragile people ordered transferred out in 2009 after the death of an 18-year-old resident.
Mason said the order “saved Ian's life.”
After he was moved in 2009, he spent a year in a Lincoln hospital, where staff were able to bring his diabetes under control. He now lives in an apartment with staff support, helps manage his diabetes and participates in volunteer activities.
Mason said the court award would go into a special needs trust, along with proceeds from a settlement reached with the Beatrice hospital. The trust will pay for extras that Ham's disability payments will not cover.