Jury issues $7.5 million verdict against Robinswood School

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email


A civil jury has found against a local school for the developmentally disabled.  The case stems from the death of a man whose family says he died because he was neglected when he became sick.

Set among a cluster of pine trees at Chennault is the Robinswood School.  It's a place the management says has served people with developmental disabilities for 35 years.  One hundred twenty residents live here and Tony Courville used  to be one of them until he died in 2005 at the age of 39.  Family photos suggest he was a happy, pleasant man.  Attorneys for his family say he was mentally retarded and had the mental aptitude of a child one to four years old.

Tony Courville ultimately died of pneumonia.  His family sued Multi-Care Inc., doing business as Robinswood School, and they won. The jury found that Robinswood breached the standard of care it owed to Courville.  Family Attorney Andre Gauthier says Courville died because care givers did not get him the medical attention needed in time to save him.

The jury awarded a $7.5 million verdict after finding the standard of care was breached and that the breach contributed to our caused the death or injuries to Courville.

Spokesman for the facility, Gordon Propst, disputes the facts as set forth by attorneys for Courville's family. Propst says they are hopeful and confident the appeal of the case will result in complete reversal.

DHH Statement on Robinswood v. Courville.

The following statement was released by DHH Secretary Alan Levine:

"This week, we learned of serious allegations related to abuse of a resident of the Robinswood School for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. Particularly disturbing, beyond the material allegations, is the fact the alleged incident(s) occurred years ago, but were apparently never reported, as is required by law.

I have asked the Health Standards Team to send surveyors to the facility to review the situation and to report to me on their findings.

We take seriously any complaint or allegation of misconduct at any DHH-licensed facility. If a facility receives an allegation of mistreatment, neglect, abuse or injury of unknown origin, it is required to report that information to Health Standards officials at DHH. Once that report has been provided to DHH, Health Standards always investigates the issue and follows up with appropriate action if necessary.

Persons with Developmental Disabilities are vulnerable, and even the hint of abuse or neglect will draw a fierce reaction from DHH as long as I am the Secretary. There should be no mistaking our position on this. "

The Department has only received one complaint unrelated to the Robinswood v. Corville case since 2005 regarding residents at Robinswood School for the Developmentally Disabled. The complaint, which was received in mid 2009, was investigated and no deficiencies were cited.

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