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New Jersey reaches $53 million settlement with families of vets who died of COVID in veterans' homes

 The state of New Jersey agreed to pay $53 million to the families of 119 senior citizens, most of whom died from COVID-19 due to questionable practices at state-maintained veterans' homes during the early stages of the pandemic.

An official for Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy's administration told NJ.com that the families of the victims would receive an average of $445,000. However, the exact amount each family will receive is yet to be determined.

The administration hopes that the settlement will ease the suffering of the families without subjecting them to a drawn-out legal battle.

"Cases settle for a variety of reasons. The families of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 have gone through so much,” an official for Murphy's office told NJ.com.Veterans' homes in Menlo Park and Paramus reported some of the highest COVID-related death tolls in the nation, with more than 200 deaths resulting from the spread of the virus leading to a state of emergency assistance from both the Veterans Administration and the National Guard, according to NJ.com. Murphy's administration came under fire after it directed veterans' homes to turn away patients who tested positive for coronavirus, according to U.S. News.

The criticism of Murphy's administration resulted in an ongoing federal investigation that began in October 2020 and found that staff from the veterans' homes had not taken proper precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus among residents.

The investigation found various forms of negligence, such as the managers of the homes opposing letting in outside vendors such as ambulance drivers who were wearing masks during the first month of the pandemic, as well as nurses' aides treating residents using the same gloves and protective gear and not knowing which residents had been exposed to coronavirus, according to a report by NorthJersey.com.

Most of the 119 families who have lost loved ones due to the negligence of the two veterans' homes reached settlements on Wednesday. The state of New Jersey will pay 60% of the settlement in the first quarter of 2022 and the rest by June 30, according to NorthJersey.com.

“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,” attorney Paul M. da Costa, who represented many veterans' families who lost loved ones in the case, told NJ.com.

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