Wrongful death lawsuit filed in autistic man’s choking death

Local News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against a local care facility in connection with the choking death of an autistic man earlier this year.

The suit alleges SAILS Westbrook Crisis Home in Bakersfield knew 21-year-old Ryan Kowal need one-on-one care “at all times” but was left alone Jan. 23. with easy access to food. Kowal ate what is believed to be a large amount of crackers and choked and died.

The suit, filed on behalf of Kowal’s parents by Chain Cohn Stiles, says there had been another incident months earlier where Kowal choked on a corn dog, lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest. Emergency personnel managed to revive him and he spent days recovering in a hospital.

The suit seeks damages in an amount to be proven at trial. It also names Kern Regional Center and Golden Gate Regional Center as defendants, saying KRC was responsible for monitoring SAILS and GGRC was responsible for ensuring Kowal received appropriate care.

“SAILS Westbrook knew Ryan’s needs and care requirements, accepted him as a resident in its home, being paid by taxpayers to provide him the appropriate supervision and provide for his needs,” the suit says. “A lack of oversight from both regional centers, and SAILS Westbrook’s desire for profit, caused Ryan’s tragic death.”

A receptionist at SAILS said Wednesday they “are unable to comment at this time.”

Matt Clark of Chain Cohn Stiles has scheduled a press conference 9 a.m. Thursday to discuss the suit.

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