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Mother sues over son’s hand-sanitizer death

MUNCIE, Ind. – A central Indiana woman is suing a Fort Wayne-based management company and two other agencies, alleging that her developmentally disabled son died after drinking hand sanitizer at his workplace.

Inez Martin filed a lawsuit this week in Delaware Circuit Court alleging that her son, Brian Martin, died at a Muncie hospital on Aug. 27, 2011, 44 days after he “ingested hand sanitizer containing alcohol, causing respiratory failure.” Her suit names Hillcroft Services, a nonprofit that provides work opportunities to the disabled, and two other agencies.

Martin, a former Harrison, Ohio, resident, lived at a Muncie home for the developmentally disabled before the events leading to his death. The complaint alleges that the three defendants failed to implement a “behavioral support plan” for Martin to address issues of “polysubstance abuse,” bulimia, agitation and theft.

It alleges that plan also called for “15-minute checks,” and for the 39-year-old Martin to “be in staff line of sight at all times.”

About five weeks after ingesting the hand sanitizer, the suit says, Martin complained for several hours of having difficulty breathing, but his caregivers “failed to provide CPR or other reasonable efforts to maintaining (Martin’s) airway, resulting in hypoxic brain injury and death.”

The Star Press reported (http://tspne.ws/15Apvv1) that Inez Martin is seeking unspecified damages for medical bills, funeral and burial expenses and the loss of her son’s “society, love, affection and companionship.”

Inez Martin, who lives in the southeastern Indiana town of Cedar Grove, is executor of her son’s estate.

Attorneys for the defendants had not filed responses to the claims by Wednesday. Andy Gruber, an attorney for Indiana Professional Management Group said Friday that he and his clients had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

“We cannot comment on something we haven’t seen yet,” he said.

Gruber said the Fort Wayne-based group provides case management services for people in the Medicaid waiver service program and is an advocate for those individuals. He added, however, that the group is not a caregiver, “nor are we a 24-7 monitoring service.”

Messages left Friday seeking comment on the suit were not returned by Hillcroft Services and another defendant in the lawsuit, Occazio, a Henry County-based provider of support services to developmentally disabled clients.

Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn said Wednesday that he wasn’t told about Martin’s death until mid-October 2011, when he was contacted by a group that reviews the deaths of developmentally disabled Indiana residents.

The coroner said he was not immediately notified because of Martin’s long hospitalization and apparent placement in hospice care – circumstances that usually do not prompt coroner investigations.

After learning of Martin’s death, Hahn issued subpoenas for related records. He said Martin’s official cause of death was ruled to be respiratory failure.

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