Ryan Kowal, 21, had severe autism and required one-on-one care “at all times” when he was placed in the care of SAILS Westbrook Crisis Home in Bakersfield. That care was most important during meal times, as Ryan required a soft food-only diet due to his risk for choking.
Supervisors at SAILS Westbrook Crisis Home, a vendor of Kern County Regional Center and Golden Gate Regional Center, signed care plans confirming such knowledge. So, it was alarming to the Kowal family when Ryan choked while eating a corn dog, causing Ryan to lose consciousness and go into cardiac arrest. He had to be revived by emergency personnel, and spent days in the hospital recovering.
But it was a preventable tragedy when, 7 months later on Jan. 23, Ryan was left alone again with easy access to food that posed a choking hazard. While Ryan was left alone with no supervision, he accessed what is believed to be crackers, ate a large amount of the crackers, choked and died.
The Kowal family, along with attorney Matt Clark at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, say this is a warning to families of special-needs children and adults everywhere to beware of for-profit care facilities who sacrifice appropriate support and care, which they are contractually obligated to provide, to increase profit margins.
“SAILS Westbrook knew Ryan’s needs and care requirements, accepted him as a resident in its home, being paid by taxpayers to provide him the appropriate supervision and provide for his needs,” states the lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the Kowal family. “A lack of oversight from both regional centers, and SAILS Westbrook’s desire for profit, caused Ryan’s tragic death.”
Ryan’s parents Treena and John Kowal, along with their attorney Matt Clark, spoke with local media to discuss Ryan’s tragic death, their wrongful death lawsuit, and the state of for-profit care facilities. To see the media interviews and coverage, click the links at the listing below.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.
- Wrongful death lawsuit filed in autistic man’s choking death (KGET-17, NBC – March 24, 2021)
- Family files suit after death of autistic man in Bakersfield care facility (The Bakersfield Californian – March 24, 2021)
- Parents hope lawsuit helps spark change after son’s choking death at local care center (KGET-17, NBC – March 25, 2021)
- Parents file lawsuit over choking death of 21-year-old son at local care facility (23ABC News – March 25, 2021) (On the Web)