Missing Woman's Family Awarded $2M
The family of a mentally-ill woman who went missing from a group home in Cleveland County in 2008 has been awarded $2 million in damages. Forty-six-year-old Mouy Tang had diabetes and schizophrenia. She'd lived in a group home called Unique Living for more than ten years when she wandered away in 2008. She has never been found. A judge in Cleveland County this week ruled the owner of the group home was at fault. "Anytime you're looking at punitive damages given in excess of $1 million, the court is sending a message that the evidence they received showed some pretty egregious conduct," says Charlotte attorney Neal Rodgers who represents the Tang family. The $2 million in punitive damages is supposed to come from a California man named Gary Jacobs who bought the group home a few months before Mouy Tang disappeared in 2008. But Jacobs never appeared in court and it's unclear how much money he has. Rodgers says the facility was collecting about $60,000 a month from Medicare and Medicaid to care for some 50 mentally ill residents. "Jacobs came in, saw it as a money making proposition, took over and then took the money, but didn't take care of the facility itself," says Rodgers. Utility bills went unpaid. Locks on the doors malfunctioned. Food service was spotty. The dishwasher was repossessed. Staff members were not paid regularly. Cleveland County social service workers pled with the state to shut down the group home. Only after Mouy Tang went missing did the state take action. Rodgers says Tang's family is also suing the state for lack of oversight. North Carolina's entire system of providing care and housing for people with mental illness is now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.