NJ to pay $52.9M to families of vets who died of COVID in state-run homes

The state of New Jersey has agreed to pay a nearly $53 million settlement to the families of 119 residents of the state’s military veteran facilities who died during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports.

Each of the families will receive an average of $445,000, to be determined in future arbitration proceedings, according to an administrative official who confirmed the payout to NJ.com. The total amount of the settlement is $52,955,000.

“The families of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 have gone through so much,” the official told the outlet. “This settlement will hopefully allow them to move forward without years of protracted and uncertain litigation.”

Nearly 200 veterans died at two of the state’s veterans homes in Paramus and Menlo Park after the pandemic erupted in 2020.

The striking number of deaths prompted a federal civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice, which wrote in a letter to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in Oct. 2020 that there was “cause for concern that the quality of medical care at these nursing homes has been deficient.” That investigation is ongoing.

At the two veterans homes, managers pushed back against mask-wearing for ambulance crews that transported patients, and forced one worker to go home because he wasn’t allowed to wear a mask, according to emails obtained by NorthJersey.com.

According to the terms of the settlement, which was obtained by NJ.com, New Jersey will pay 60%, roughly $31.7 million, within 90 days of the court’s receipt of all “closing papers” from plaintiffs in the case.

Attorney Paul M. da Costa of Roseland, who represented a number of families who filed suit against the state, said that the out-of-court settlement avoids years of ongoing litigation.

“No amount of money can ever obviously replace the lives of the lost veterans, but my clients and I are satisfied that this settlement provides a good measure of civil justice and accountability,” he told the outlet.