Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., the site of one of the first coronavirus outbreaks to hit the U.S., was slapped with its first lawsuit alleging wrongful death and fraud regarding one of the 37 fatalities associated with the clinic.
Deborah de los Angeles’s mother, Twilla June Morin, was a resident at the Life Care Center during the coronavirus outbreak, per ABC News. de los Angeles claims that she discovered Morin was ill with COVID-19 on March 3, and was suddenly notified 22 hours later of her mother’s death via voicemail.
“On the day before her mother died of the coronavirus at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, staff members told Deborah de los Angeles that the resident physician had not been on site for weeks, according to a lawsuit filed by the woman.” https://t.co/p1cmTY4yLU— Elaine Taylor (@JessesLaw) April 14, 2020
Morin, who was 84, had preexisting conditions including an autoimmune disease and dementia, de los Angeles told ABC News. Experts have learned during the course of the pandemic that older individuals with preexisting conditions are particularly vulnerable to severe and fatal coronavirus infections.
The lawsuit further claims that Life Care Center was aware of the respiratory infection outbreak at the facility since January, but “lacked a clear plan of action leading to a systemic failure.” It states that rather than quarantining residents as the first signs of a respiratory illness spread, the clinic had a Mardi Gras party that admitted visitors in and out of the building.
Afterwards, it allegedly took Life Care Center 17 days to report coronavirus cases to the authorities after an order was issued in King County to report suspected cases within 24 hours.
de los Angeles is not the only person with these complaints; other individuals who had family at the center reported a lack of communication with the staff, with ABC reporting that many of them were not immediately notified of the coronavirus cases within the facility. de los Angeles in particular said that she wasn’t aware until Feb. 29, about three days before her mother's death, although the first case was discovered 10 days earlier.
Life Care responded with a statement, saying, “Our hearts go out to this family and the loss they have suffered during this unprecedented viral outbreak. We are unable to comment on specific legal cases that are pending, but we wish this and all families peace. The loss of any of our residents at Life Care Center of Kirkland is felt deeply by us.”
de los Angeles will reportedly be seeking compensation for general and special damages. She told ABC that she hopes that the lawsuit will inspire the clinic "to do the right thing by their residents, do the right thing by their staff."
"It’s not just Life Care, all nursing homes need to wake up and get their acts together."
Prior to this lawsuit, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) audited the Life Care Center and found that the facility failed to manage the burgeoning outbreak or follow required steps like notifying the Washington Department of Health of the cases.
Additionally, when the primary physician overseeing the Life Care Center fell ill and could not monitor patients, the clinic made no plans to compensate for the absence, as is required.
Life Care Center was given three Immediate Jeopardy citations, which are defined by the CMS as “a situation in which immediate corrective action is necessary.”
The CMS will fine the center $611,325 if it does not rectify the outstanding mistakes by Sept. 16.
ABC notes that on April 2, the Life Care Center stated it had worked with CMS to remove the Immediate Jeopardy citations and will continue to improve its care practices and address additional concerns.
Nursing homes are still under siege by the coronavirus, with facilities in New York, Virginia and Florida struggling to quell skyrocketing cases.