Lawsuit Filed: 15-Year-Old Commits Suicide After Being Left Unsupervised in Children’s Group Home

Los Angeles County, Calif. — Yaakov Ronkin, a 15 year-old diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a history of suicide attempts, was admitted to Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services El Nido Residential Campus for the express purpose of monitoring the behavior resulting from these unfortunate conditions which first and foremost is a propensity for suicidal ideations. Instead of providing this required care the Complaint alleges that Hathaway so totally ignored Yaakov as to, quite literally, lose him so as to allow him to roam the streets unattended until found not by Hathaway staff but rather a good Samaritan. While the gravity of this incident should have prompted significant increased interventions and supervision to protect Ronkin from attempting to commit suicide or hurting himself; however, the Complaint alleges that again just a few weeks later, Hathaway-Sycamores left Ronkin unsupervised and completely uncared for so as to allow his diseases suicidal ideations to take control. And when Hathaway-Sycamores  staff belatedly, and finally, checked on this poor boy he had, as was the known danger for him, hung himself with his belt. After intense hospital testing, it was determined that Ronkin would never recover from his brain injury. He was taken off of life support and died on September 8, 2017, just over a month following his admission.

“The lack of supervision by Hathaway-Sycamores is shocking given Yaakov’s known severely disturbed mental and emotional state, and his repeated suicide attempts,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “As stated in the lawsuit, the facility acted in direct violation of California regulations which mandate that the child care staff shall provide supervision, protection and care of children individually and in groups at all times. Further, according to public record, the facility has a long history of being issued citations by the Department of Social Services for failing to provide adequate supervision to its residents. This points to a concerning pattern of insufficient staffing to properly care for these children whose lives were entrusted to the facility.”

Garcia, Artigliere & Medby filed a lawsuit against Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services El Nido Residential Campus for willful misconduct, negligent hiring and supervision, and wrongful death.

Allegations and Background

When Yaakov Ronkin was admitted to Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services El Nido Residential Campus on or about July 31, 2017, it’s alleged the facility was aware of his multiple suicide and runaway attempts and numerous stays at psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric wards, as well as his violent behavior. In fact, Ronkin was under Level 14 protective custody as ordered by the court, and while at the facility, Ronkin was to be under constant supervision and suicide watch 24/7, including keeping unsafe objects and materials that he could use to hurt himself or others, such as belts, shoelaces, knives and objects that could be used as weapons out of the reach. Group homes such as the facility are rated by the California Department of Social Services in conjunction with Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services using Rate Classification Levels of 1 through 14, with 14 being the highest level of intensity of psychiatric treatment, care, and supervision provided.

Upon Ronkin’s escape from the Hathaway-Sycamore-affiliated school, his family questioned how he was allowed to run away. The facility staff allegedly told his family that they were not informed Ronkin was “a runner.” The lawsuit states that the facility consciously disregarded this knowledge of Ronkin’s background and did nothing to protect Ronkin from attempting to commit suicide or hurting himself, which predictably resulted in his final suicide attempt on August 31, 2017. Ronkin’s family asked facility staff who were present at the hospital how this had happened, and the staff admitted to allowing him to go to the bathroom unsupervised for an extended period of time. The facility’s apparent failure to provide required care and supervision directly led to Ronkin’s tragic and untimely death.