Archive for Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mother of CLO client files lawsuit claiming wrongful death

February 19, 2012


A McLouth woman has filed a lawsuit against Community Living Opportunities Inc. alleging her son, who had mental and physical disabilities, died in 2010 because of injuries he suffered at a west Lawrence residential facility.

Leaders of Community Living Opportunities, or CLO, are denying the lawsuit’s claims.

The suit filed in Douglas County District Court on behalf of Josephine VanDruff claims an employee of CLO’s Monterey Way

Cottage on Feb. 16, 2010, was transporting her son, Timothy D. Gibson. Due to Gibson’s physical abilities, he needed assistance to move or walk.

“The employee transporting (Gibson) did so in a negligent manner that failed to meet the accepted standard of care,” VanDruff’s attorney Michael Sexton wrote in the suit. “As a direct and proximate result of the negligence of defendant’s agent, servant or employee, (Gibson) was caused and/or allowed to fall.”

As a result of the fall, Gibson suffered from quadriparesis, a muscle weakness affecting all four limbs, and he died about two months later, “as a direct and proximate result of the injury,” according to claims in the lawsuit.

According to his obituary in the Journal-World, Gibson was 51 and died April 6, 2010, at Hillside Village Nursing Home in De Soto.

CLO officials said they would fight the allegations in court.

“Tim was well-loved, and he was well cared for for over two decades at CLO up to the day that he left,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Strouse said. “We are not in agreement, of course, in any of the claims.”

Strouse said CLO has operated the small residential facility at 1121 Monterey Way since 1991.

In the suit, Sexton wrote that VanDruff suffered mental anguish, suffering and bereavement because of her son’s death and also incurred expenses for his funeral and burial. VanDruff is seeking monetary damages in excess of $75,000.

Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild has not scheduled any hearings in the case.


Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

CLO is a good organization, from what I have seen they take the the more severe "special needs" people that are too much for Cottonwood. That being said, the turnover among staff has to be large, especially the lower staff that would be living in the house and transporting. Just saying it's tough work.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

As far as I know, Cotttonwood doesn't turn anyone away.

Also, I don't know what they're like these days, but CLO used to have a rather different philosophy when dealing with the DD than I like - much more authoritarian and punitive.

lawrencenerd 6 years, 2 months ago

Well, this is quite vague. Quadraparesis is a symptom, not the underlying problem. In this case if he got it only after falling I'd have to assume there was some sort of spinal injury involved. Again, it is much too vague.

pea 6 years, 2 months ago

Have no input on this particular case but I'm told they actually call their residents "consumers" rather than "clients". Awful, right?

Lisa Rasor 6 years, 2 months ago

"Consumer" is/was the accepted term of art used by organizations like CLO. Cottonwood has used it too. I believe they are trying to convey that people are using the services of these organizations, much like any of us use (consume) services in our community. It seems that "consumer" has fewer negative associations than the word "client." Neither are perfect. But I can appreciate their effort.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 2 months ago

All labels used "conjure up differing identities identifying differing relationships and differing power dynamics".

To me, "clients" implies a more hierarchical relationship...with the client on the 'bottom'...than does "consumers". In addition, while we are all consumers in our lives, we are not all "consumers" seems more inclusive as well.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

That's interesting.

Clients doesn't imply that to me - when you hire a lawyer, you're their client, but you shouldn't be at the bottom of that relationship.

Or realtors.


Kendall Simmons 6 years, 2 months ago

That's why it's so difficult to come up with terms that satisfy everyone :-)

pea 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree, it is impossible to please everyone. IMO: "client" = relationship of trust. "Consumer" = cold, busine$$ only interaction. Might as well use "customer". I may be stuck on the negative connotations that "consumerism" has.

kimk 6 years, 2 months ago

I had a friend that worked there. She finally had to leave because of all the neglect that she saw on a daily basis. She would go to higher ups in the company and they refused to do anything about time after time. They very rarely passed State inspections due to how it was run. She actually called in a tip in to LJW thinking maybe some publicity would help. LJW never wrote anything about it.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 2 months ago

Pawn your kid off onto the state and the taxpayer, then sue when things don't go as you plan, while you go on with your life. Shame shame shame.

chootspa 6 years, 2 months ago

CLO is not the state, although I'm sure taxpayer money was involved. I'm really not sure why you'd begrudge using taxpayer money to care for the severely disabled, but it speaks a lot about your character.

The "kid" was 51, and that means she's probably at least 71. I'm not sure exactly how long you're going to stay home to care for the specialized medical needs of your adult child, especially as you grow older and are unable to physically lift them, but I'm sure it's a very long time, since you're a saint and superhero with all your imaginary children.

If CLO was responsible for the negligent death of someone in their care, they should be sued. That's why we have a legal system.

StirrrThePot 6 years, 2 months ago

What an idiotic, ignorant, and judgmental comment. Not to mention rude. Obviously, you've never been around anyone served by an organization like CLO, nor tried to care for anyone with disabilities of any kind. Just shut up, and please don't vote.

As was mentioned:

CLO is not the state, they are an organization that provides direct care, daily activities, and vocational opportunities for folks (ADULTS) who would fall under the category of severely disabled. These folks are our most frail and vulnerable citizens, and their disabilities vary from being almost completely dependent upon someone else to survive to just needing supervision in their daily activities. CLO actually provides a wonderful setting for people who do not want their loved ones to live out their lives in a state-run institution--in y experience the family members who placed their adult family members in need at this place did so knowing they would get the best services possible. Most of these families were very much a part of the care planning and cared very much what was going on there. These disabled folks are integrated into the community as they should be and given a good quality of life. The population CLO serves is a difficult one due to the severe nature of their disabilities, and it is not perfect nor are the people who work there. I really hope things work out for both parties--this is a really sad deal.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago


Remarkable really, that people are so open with their hatefulness.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 2 months ago

Sorry to be obtuse, but where's the hatefulness here?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

See the comment directly above mine.

BigDog 6 years, 2 months ago

Cant_have_it_both_ways (anonymous) says… Pawn your kid off onto the state and the taxpayer, then sue when things don't go as you plan, while you go on with your life. Shame shame shame.

Nothing like being judgemental without knowing any facts. Like the adult son could be much larger than the mother .... making it difficult for her to physically assist. Did he have any kind of behavioral/aggression issue. What is the mother's health like? Some of these people being served have parents who are much older ...

I don't know either but sure makes it hard to second guess someone's decision to put the adult in the care of someone else without knowing anything about either party and their life circumstances.

loiria 6 years, 2 months ago

I am a bereaved parent of a special needs child and lived in Lawrence for just over 7 years. While my son was a child when he passed, I never got to see my son grow up but I do understand that there are those parents/caregivers that have varies degrees of needs depending upon their age and health. I have had to move away from the Lawrence area to attend to my family in which I take care of my aging parents and my survivng child. I would have liked to see my son grow up however I cherish the few years I had with him. I myself would have most likely been put in the same situation later on in life.

akt2 6 years, 2 months ago

If it was such a terrible place, why would a parent leave a disabled, adult child in their care for over 2 decades? 20 years would be a long time for a parent to look the other way or not notice neglect.

Robert Rauktis 6 years, 2 months ago

For the same reason people stay in lousy marriages for twenty years and then blame that spouse for lost years.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Well, this suit doesn't allege it was a "terrible place" for 20 years, it alleges there was negligence by an employee that harmed/killed their child.

Different organizations have slightly different philosophies about this sort of care - perhaps these folks liked CLO's philosophy more than others.

And, there's usually a lot of turnover in "direct line" staff in these places - it's entirely possible that the care had been fine, and a new (or relatively new) employee was a bit careless in this case.

57chevy 6 years, 2 months ago

Too many lawyers! The parent (I use the term loosely. It applies not to the birth mother but to the people who rear the child) has had their child in the care of an organization that is trying and apparently succeding (developmentally delayed people living into their 50's is not to be taken lightly) in taking care of the severely disabled sues them for wrongful death. I'd say if she was paying top dollar for the care perhaps she would have some claim, but I don't suspect that is the case. Organisations like CLO take the unwanted members of society that have no ability to take care of themselves and give them something like a reasonable quality of life. I would not expect the average american family to be willing or able to this for their kin, but many do. If you don't, then by God thank the people who do it for you, don't sue them. As they say, "If you want something done right, do it yourself". If you can't take care of your own, at least don't cripple the people who do it for you with sleazy law suits.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Plenty of DD folks live into their 50's, as far as I know.

The claim doesn't rest on how much they were paying, it rests on whether or not the agency was negligent in the care provided. Don't we want these sorts of agencies to be held to a reasonable standard?

Also, DD folks have a variety of abilities to care for themselves - many live on their own with minimal support, through a wide range until you get to the extreme cases who need constant supervision/assistance.

And, many parents work with organizations like CLO - they don't just "turn over" the care to them.

johnsont1 6 years, 2 months ago

My father worked there for almost twenty years and I can tell you first hand that he never called the people they assisted "consumers" or "clients," he always spoke of them with the same words that he would use to describe anyone else - as people. He did not tolerate neglect on the behalf of their employees, and trained the employees so well that there was not a chance for incompetence. Many other organizations around the country look at CLO as a model organization because of its outstanding track record.

As I grew up, I came to know several of the residents and employees at CLO, and it was very apparent that CLO put 110% into the care and well-being of the individuals they serve. It's too bad that the only articles to make the paper focus on terrible things that happen - it gives the public an unrealistic picture. You never seem to read articles praising outstanding compliance.

My condolences go out to the family of Timothy. I don't know the details of this particular incident, so I'm going to try not to make a naive remark about the situation, but there are often mistakes that can occur that are not due to negligence. I think the fact that Josephine trusted her son with CLO for over two decades illustrates how much she trusted the organization. Nonetheless, as "mental anguish, suffering and bereavement" are common things that people experience when a loved one passes, I understand her frustration and reasons for legal action.

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