The state of New Jersey has reached a settlement that will require it to pay around $53 million to conclude claims that government negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the deaths of more than 100 veterans living in homes operated by the state.
Attorneys announced that the settlement affects the families’ claims of deceased residents of veterans’ homes located in Menlo Park and Paramus. The families had filed legally required notices of their intent to sue but had not yet brought lawsuits.
Attorney Paul da Costa represented 72 of the families part of the settlement. He said that while it does not replace their lost relatives who loved and honorably served the nation, the settlement is a “good measure of civil justice.” He added that the settlement gives a voice to those lost in the veterans’ homes.
More than 200 residents in New Jersey veterans’ homes died during the pandemic. Democratic Governor Phil Murphy received widespread criticism last year after telling the homes not to refuse patients who had tested positive for COVID.
Republicans in the New Jersey State Senate called for an investigation into the outbreak of COVID and related deaths in nursing homes as early as May of 2020. By September 2020, demonstrators assembled at Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park to demand formal investigations.
The Department of Justice eventually gave Murphy notice that it was beginning an investigation into the nursing home deaths because of “incomplete answers” that had been provided to earlier federal requests.
Early in the pandemic, New Jersey’s state government acted to shield long-term care homes and facilities from liability over ordinary negligence when they could be shown to have acted in good faith. One of the attorneys representing families of the deceased residents said that the state worked to bar some lawsuits and claimed that the state was guilty of gross negligence.
He said that the cases would not have been easy to try in court. Still, attorneys for the families were willing to take the long course to a resolution if necessary, adding that the state did the right thing by not putting the families of the deceased through “years and years” of litigation.