The estate of an Alzheimer’s patient who was pepper-sprayed, arrested and hospitalized after a wandering incident is suing his nursing home and the local police department for $50 million.
The suit claims both the police and nursing home staff were negligent, reckless and discriminatory in responding to Angel Pantoja’s behavior on January 2017.
Court documents filed in New Jersey Superior Court allege the staff at The Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Wanaque, NJ, failed to act appropriately to a display of dementia-related symptoms. The filing also claims facility staff gave police false information about Pantoja’s health and background when they arrived at the building to help control him.
“Pantoja … was caused to sustain mental anguish, distress and damage,” the complaint reads, according to the USA Today Network. “[He] was never able to open his eyes again and was not able to see his daughters in his time of passing.”
According to a police report, Pantoja, 75, advanced toward a Wanaque Police Department officer with an “unknown weapon,” failed to comply with police orders and resisted arrest. The use of pepper spray during the incident blinded Pantoja, an attorney for his estate told NewJersey.com.
The attorney did not allege Pantoja’s death 10 months later was directly linked to the pepper spray, but she called its use unwarranted.
“You don’t think that somebody is going to apply a chemical restraint to your loved one just because they’re exhibiting symptomology associated with Alzheimer’s,” Frances Nicotra told the website. “You wouldn’t expect it on the street, let alone a nursing home.”
Police and a nursing home administrator declined comment, and the facility’s legal representative could not be reached, according to a local newspaper account.