CROWN POINT | A 47-year-old man with multiple disabilities has been awarded one of the largest settlements in the state -- $12 million -- for irreversible injuries caused by being placed in a bath of scalding water by a home health care worker.
The youngest of seven children, James Kosinski, then 43, had been under family guardianship at the time of the incident in January 2009.
"Before this happened, James had been living in his own house my sister and I purchased for him," his sister, Kelly Kosinski, of Hebron, explained.
Kosinski required 24-hour care because of his autism, cerebral palsy and seizure disorder but was able to move around and express himself with those who knew him well through gestures and body language.
In November 2008, Spectrum Community Services of Indiana LLC, of Crown Point, took over Kosinski's care. He was moved from Crown Point to an apartment a few minutes from his sister's Hebron home.
"I trusted this was the agency that was going to provide the best care for my brother," she said.
Within two months of taking over his care, a Spectrum worker placed Kosinski in a tub of scalding water, causing Kosinksi to suffer second- and third-degree burns and a variety of complications resulting in even further brain damage.
According to Merrillville attorney Timothy Schafer, as Kosinski thrashed in the tub, the worker, believing Kosinski was having a seizure, held him in place.
Hearing the commotion, another health care worker rescued Kosinski.
Schafer said Kosinski, crying, collapsed into the woman's arms. The woman later reported she would never forget the fear and terror in Kosinski's eyes, Schafer said.
Spectrum's attorney, Deborah Kapitan, of Crown Point, declined to comment, citing confidentiality.
Schafer and Kosinski's sister said Monday their goal in going public with the settlement is to send a message.
"I would like to send a message that the agencies will be accountable," said Kelly Kosinski, who urged families in similar situations to keep family members at home where home health care workers can be supervised.
"We hope to deter this kind of conduct in the future," Schafer said. "There's a pattern."
Schafer said Kosinski suffered several other injuries while under earlier care at three different health care agencies prior to Spectrum.
The private care his family will be providing with the help of the settlement is estimated at about $210,000 a year, Kosinski's sister said.
While Kosinski retains awareness of his family's presence, much of his communication ability is gone, she said.
"Our hope is to build him a house, handicapped-accessible for his needs, and provide him with private care we have control of," she said.
Kelly Kosinski said the family was simply given a list of the state's licensed agencies.
"There are HIPPA laws and other things that protect the agencies, no input as to which agencies might be a better choice, and there are no report cards," she said.
Kelly Kosinski said employees are required only to have a high school diploma and go through a training program at the agency.
James Kosinski lives in a Chicago nursing home where he is confined to a chair near the nursing station.
"He required 24-hour care (before) but he still enjoyed his apartment, enjoyed his family, enjoyed certain TV shows and getting out into the community," Schafer said. "This took what little he had."