Chicago – December 20, 2023 – Chicago personal injury and medical malpractice firm Levin & Perconti filed a six count complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County on December 20th alleging Help at Home Group Home’s institutional and systemic negligence led to the shocking incident caught on video and other acts of physical and emotional abuse against a 28-year-old, mentally disabled resident Zach Stankewitz. The complaint alleges an employee of the Help at Home Group Home encouraged two other mentally disabled residents to “discipline” Stankewitz by hitting him repeatedly in the head, recorded it on his cellphone and sent it to at least one other employee at the group home. According to the complaint, staff members at the group home did not get Zach medical attention for six days. When he was finally taken to the hospital, he was diagnosed with catastrophic brain injuries including a subdural hematoma and intraventricular hemorrhage as a result of the repeated blows to the head. Zach also had 39 wounds on his body according to medical records.
Zach suffers from autism and had moved into the home in 2018. It is a state licensed, community integrated living facility (“CILA”) located at 3477 W Silverado Drive in Kankakee, Illinois. A newly hired employee at the group home, Dayveon Rocquemore, recorded the video on his cellphone on July 11, 2021. It shows Zach pinned down on the floor by one resident while another resident repeatedly hit him in the head with a pillowcase filled with unknown objects.
“The employee only recorded 10 seconds of the attack. As horrific as the video is, it does not tell the whole story nor was this employee the only one who caused Zach harm. We filed this lawsuit because Zach’s family deserves to know what happened before and after those 10 seconds. How did Zach suffer not only the catastrophic brain injuries from the blows to the head seen in the video but also the bruises and abrasions all over his body, and why did other staff members wait six days to get Zach medical attention? These are just some of the unanswered questions. There are others as well,” said the family’s attorney, Steve Levin. founding partner at Levin & Perconti.
“The attack occurred almost 29 months ago but staff members have either lied about what occurred or are still refusing to provide information”
– Steve Levin
The defendants in the lawsuit are Help at Home, LLC, Help at Home II, LLC, HAH Group Holding Company, LLC, HAH Intermediate, LLC, and HAH Holdings, LLC. Help at Home is a national for-profit company operating group homes throughout Illinois and in other states as well. The complaint alleges Help at Home’s hiring practices, lack of employee training and supervision of employees and residents led to the frightening incident and other abuse and neglect that occurred at the facility including staff not getting Zach medical attention in a timely manner.
“It took me a long time to even watch the video because that was the day my life shattered. Watching my son brutalized in such a shocking way instigated by a staff member whose job it was to look after Zach and protect him was devastating.” said Zach’s mother, Michealen Stankewitz. “Zach always had mental and emotional challenges due to his disabilities. But physically he was good. Now he can no longer walk, feed himself or go to the bathroom on his own. His speech has also deteriorated. His quality of life has diminished so much. It is both heartbreaking and infuriating to me.”
When Zach arrived at the hospital, doctors recognized his injuries were not the result of a “fall” as they were told but rather the result of violent abuse and notified the Kankakee police. They began investigating and on July 20th, 2021, a supervisor at Help at Home turned over the cellphone video of the incident to police. It had been sent to at least one employee at the group home before the police began their investigation.
“On its own website Help at Home Group Home says it provides “a culture of caring with highly trained caregivers, certified nursing assistants and licensed nurses and social workers” to care for residents but sadly that was not the case for Zach. Dayveon Rocquemore had been on the job for just over one month. He had neither the educational background or work experience nor had he been given proper training or supervision to care for disabled residents,” said Kelly Sabo Gaden, partner at Levin & Perconti.
“Other staff members were also at serious fault when it came to protecting Zach and giving him the care and medical attention he needed. Help at Home failed Zach on every level.”
-Kelly Sabo Gaden
Zach, now age 30, resides in a nursing home. Due to the injuries he suffered at Help at Home Group Home, he will need comprehensive and expensive medical care for the rest of his life. Dayveon Rocquemore has been charged with two counts of aggravated battery and is awaiting trial.
Levin & Perconti in the Press:
In an interview with Fox 32 Chicago, Levin said, “It’s a shocking example of neglect by a facility… Not only did they put an untrained individual who had no abilities to respond to Zach’s behavior in place there, they also gave this individual, we believe, no training about Zach’s particular behaviors.”