Harriet Tropp, claimant's deceased daughter, was born in New York City in 1941. Her early years were marked by difficulties in school and uncontrollable behavior. She was committed to Letchworth Village in 1952 on her mother's petition. After a few months she returned home and attended special classes for a time. She was readmitted to Letchworth in 1955. Except for occasional home visits, she remained there until her transfer to Central Islip State Hospital on April 30, 1964 at the age of 22.
At her initial mental examination at Central Islip, Harriet's condition was diagnosed as "psychosis with other infectious diseases, whooping cough-encephalitis mental deficiency."
The record reflects periods of disturbed or assaultive conduct requiring restraint. Thorazine and other sedating drugs were prescribed and administered on a regular basis.
On August 8, 1965 at 4:45 a.m. she was discovered to be lying in her bed in the usual sleeping position, but not breathing. Upon examination she was "found blue in appearance, tongue hanging out and body cold to the touch." The doctor on duty pronounced Harriet Tropp dead at 5:15 a.m. and indicated that she appeared to have been dead about three hours.
The body was taken to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office in an ambulance, and a preliminary note on the hospital record reads: "Cause of death: Visceral Congestion -- pending further investigation." The Medical Examiner's office performed an autopsy on August 8, 1965 at 3:30 p.m. and listed as the "Final cause of death: Drug intoxication from polypharmaceuticals".
Mrs. Tropp, administratrix of her deceased daughter's estate, now sues the State of New York for damages due to its alleged negligence in the "maintenance, supervision, care and control of its ward, Harriet Tropp, known to be a retarded and disturbed child and known to have had suicidal propensities". She seeks $250,000 as her pecuniary loss, $10,000 for conscious pain and suffering of the intestate, and $950 as funeral expenses.
Mrs. Tropp was granted letters of administration by Surrogate McGrath in Bronx County on December 30, 1965. Notice of intention to file a claim was received and filed by the Clerk of the Court of Claims on March 12, 1966. The claim itself was timely filed with the Clerk on March 12, 1966 and in the office of the Department of Law on March 14, 1966. It has neither been assigned in whole or in part, nor tried, nor brought before any other court or tribunal for determination.
During her years at Central Islip, Harriet's medical record shows repeated attempts at self-destruction and assaultive behavior. Restraining measures, including the use of a camisole, as well as prescribed sedation, were employed to keep her manageable.
From July 19, 1965 through August 7th, the day before her death, Harriet's medication record showed the following daily entries:
Miss Beverly Tropp, the deceased's sister, is a licensed practical nurse. She was living at the Tropp home in 1965. She testified to having visited her sister many times at Central Islip. In February of 1965 she noticed large black and blue marks on her sister's body. Miss Tropp ...