A family has filed a lawsuit against a Florida nursing home, alleging that negligence following a hurricane resulted in wrongful death, after the facility lost air conditioning and was not prepared for the storm.
Dolly Mallan was a resident of Savannah Court of the Palm Beaches, in West Palm Beach, when Hurricane Irma hit on September 10, 2017. Mallan was transferred out of the facility while suffering from nursing home dehydration and overheating, but died at a nearby hospital on September 15, 2017.
According to a complaint (PDF) filed late last month, Mallan was a victim of nursing home neglect and her death could have been avoided by proper management of the facility. The lawsuit, filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, names Michael DeSalvo and Senior Living Properties V, LLC, doing business as Savannah Court of the Palm Beaches, as defendants.
The lawsuit indicates that before the hurricane struck, Mallan’s son, Benjamin Kelley, called the facility to make sure that they were prepared to care for his mother and other residents, and he was advised that they were. Kelley was not informed that the facility did not have a back-up generator and no plan for keeping residents cool if the facility suffered a loss of power and air conditioning in the hot Florida weather.
Kelley only discovered there was a problem on September 12, when his mother was hospitalized due to dehydration and overheating, after suffering for two days in the nursing home with no air conditioning. She was unresponsive when he visited her in the hospital and died two days later.
“As it turns out, the facility was investigated by the West Palm Beach police Department on September 13, 2017 after receiving a call requesting for the police to perform a welfare check for the well-being of the residents of the facility,” the lawsuit states. “Per an anonymous tip, the facility did not have power and the heat conditions were unbearable for the elderly residents.”
The lawsuit states that the police investigation determined that the conditions at the facility were “deplorable.”
Police conducting a walk through of the facility found a nursing home with extremely high temperatures, strong odors, and food left out. Some residents were wearing only paper clothing or trying to fan themselves with handmade fans to cool off. While a door leading outside was open, there was no breeze.
Residents with no mobility were trapped on the second floor, where it was even hotter. No effort had been made to bring them down to the cooler first floor.
Police said DeSalvo, the executive director, did not seem the least bit concerned about the plight of the residents when he arrived on scene. They also indicated nurses told them in private that there was little effort being made to help the overheating residents. The nurses told police they wished to remain anonymous in order to keep their jobs.
DeSalvo reportedly told a police sergeant that residents on the second floor complaining about the heat were “a bunch of whiny crybabies,” according to the complaint. He finally relented and moved the residents to the first floor when police told him his reasoning was unacceptable. He also at first reportedly refused to accept the loan of portable generators to get the A/C running until pressured by police.
When local media arrived, DeSalvo reportedly slapped the camera from a camera man’s face and grabbed a photo identification card hanging from the West Palm Beach Mayor Geraldine Muoio’s neck and turned it around.
The lawsuit presents claims against DeSalvo and the nursing home of wrongful death, violation of Florida nursing home statutes, and seeks survival damages.