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City settles wrongful death suit after autistic child dies

Although the city of New York agreed to a substantial settlement with a woman following the death of her autistic son, the mother says the money does not ease the pain. What she really wants is for changes to occur as a result of her son's wrongful death. Those changes may come on a federal level.

The 14-year-old boy was known by his school to be a flight risk. Nevertheless, the non-verbal child managed to run past school security and out of the building one autumn afternoon. When the boy's mother was informed that he was missing, she launched a massive search. Unfortunately, the boy's body was found on a beach three months later. He was badly decomposed, so the exact cause of death could not be determined.

No one knows exactly where the boy went or what happened to him after he left the school. The mother sued the school officials and the school safety division of the New York Police Department. Her suit states that the school did not properly monitor the exits nor supervise a child with special needs. The city settled the case for $2.7 million.

In addition to the multi-million dollar payout, the city has modified school doors so that alarms sound when they are opened. Several U.S. senators are now proposing federal funding to provide GPS tracking devices for children with special needs. Although these changes come too late for this mother and son, her goal in bringing a wrongful death suit was to prevent other New York families from suffering needlessly.   

Source: New York Daily News, "Exclusive: Family of Avonte Oquendo, drowned autistic student, to receive $2.7M in wrongful death suit", John Marzulli, July 28, 2016

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