An Ohio nursing home faces a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that negligence allowed a resident to elope from the facility, wandering outside were he freeze to death.
The family of Mark Billiter filed a complaint in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, against Glenwood Care and Rehabilitation Center and Stone Crossing Skilled Care in Canton, Ohio .
According to the lawsuit, Billiter was 56 at the time of his death, and had been a resident at the facility for years after previously suffering from heart-attack induced dementia that resulted in the need for constant supervision.
The family indicates that Billiter left the facility while following visitors of another patient, suggesting that staff members failed to recognize him as a patient. According to a local media report by IndeOnline.com the facility failed to notify either the family or police for at least 12 hours after he went missing.
Since authorities were unaware of the nursing home elopment, they failed to identify him when Billiter was encountered by police a few hours after he left. Billiter reportedly told police that he was trying to get to family in Alliance, Ohio, but they only took him as far as the city limits.
Two days later, Billiter was found frozen to death next to a dumpster at a gas station about four miles from the nursing home. An autopsy found that the cause of death was due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures with wet or insufficient clothing.
The lawsuit presents claims for negligence, gross negligence, malice, and a number of nursing home violations, indicating that if the elopement had been reported by the nursing home earlier, police would have identified Billiter and returned him safely, avoiding the wrongful death.