TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KRQE) – The state of New Mexico has agreed to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the family of a Vietnam vet who died from COVID-19 in 2020. He contracted it at the state’s veteran home in Truth or Consequences. The lawsuit claimed the facility wasn’t following the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. According to the health department, 37 veterans died at the facility from COVID-19.
Vietnam War veteran Rickey Widener was living in the state’s veterans’ home in Truth or Consequences when he died after contracting COVID-19. The 75-year-old passed away on December 3, 2020. His wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit last August – against the veterans’ home which is operated by the state’s health department.
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The lawsuit claimed the facility wasn’t following COVID safe protocols set into place by the state’s health department. The suit used findings from a DOH survey of the veterans’ home stating a COVID-positive and symptomatic staff member was allowed to provide care to both COVID-positive and COVID-negative residents, the facility failed to maintain a barrier between green and red zones. it also failed to thoroughly clean a red zone before converting it to a green zone – and more.
In the end – the state reached a settlement with Barbara Widener for $300,000. The veterans’ home in T or C has faced significant problems in the past from structural problems and issues with the roof to crumbling walking paths.
There’s now the question of whether the settlement will set a precedent for future lawsuits by the families of those 36 other veterans. according to the New Mexico department of health, there is only one other active lawsuit at this point.