After his caretaker parents died about 20 years ago, Vernon Gray, a disabled man, lived with as many as 500 rats as his only companions. Now the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has agreed to pay Gray $8 million for failing to check on him. It’s said to be the largest settlement of its kind in state history.
According to the Washington Post, one neighbor said rats could be seen “swinging from drapes and licking condensation off the windows.” They could be spotted outside of the home too, scurrying through the tall grass of the lawn.
Neighbors grew concerned that the rodent-infested home was a health hazard to Gray and the surrounding area. They placed numerous calls to social workers to intervene. Agents first claimed they couldn’t determine Gray was actually in need of help. Another agent claimed the home was too unsafe to enter, and therefore closed the case rather than bringing in more assistance to secure Gray’s safety. Police finally intervened in 2017, but by then neglect had left Gray homeless, legally blind and covered with lice.
Officials admitted to KOMO that what happened was a “tragic situation” and “the agency dropped the ball here.” Last Thursday, Washington state’s Department of Social and Health Services agreed to pay the 64-year-old a record $8 million settlement, which is believed to be the largest for an adult protective services case in state history.
In a statement shared with the Washington Post, a spokesman for the agency cited confidentiality clauses prohibiting him from discussing case specifics, but stated the agency “is sorry for what happened to Mr. Gray and hopes this settlement can improve his quality of life.”