Nancy J. Winkler Files Civil Rights Lawsuit against state of New Jersey and its Department of Human Services

Nancy J. Winkler has filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court asserting that the State of New Jersey failed to address the systemic abuse at the New Lisbon Developmental Center. The Civil Rights action against the State of New Jersey and its Department of Human Services (DHS) declares that they subjected her client, Mr. Hollis, to inhumane living conditions that resulted in his wrongful and untimely death from extreme hypothermia at the Burlington County facility in December 2009.

“One of the most vulnerable members of our society was severely neglected and abused while under the watch of the government agency that was responsible for his care. In a civilized society, it is horrifying that a human being should freeze to death while under the care of the State,” said Nancy J. Winkler.

In 2002, a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation discovered on-going staff physical and verbal abuse to New Lisbon residents and documented approximately 4,400 resident injuries during a 10-month period. The investigation also found the residents were denied adequate health care and were subjected to dangerous and unsafe living conditions causing injuries and deaths.

The DOJ filed a suit against New Jersey in 2004 for allowing New Lisbon Developmental Center to deny basic human rights to its residents. As a result, the State and the DOJ signed an agreement later that year to implement corrective measures to improve residents’ healthcare services and overall safety at New Lisbon. The DOJ monitored the New Lisbon facility for several years to ensure compliance. After the DOJ’s involvement ended in 2009, serious concerns about residents’ safety again resurfaced following at least two suspicious deaths of New Lisbon residents, including the death of Winkler’s client, Mr. Hollis.

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