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Hurricane Irma Power Loss Spurs Florida Nursing Home Lawsuits

It was to be expected following one of the biggest and most powerful storms in Florida’s history that those who stayed would be grappling with some degree of power loss in the immediate aftermath. However, one could also reasonably assume that health care providers – including nursing homes responsible for the care of elderly and vulnerable individuals – would be prepared to ensure patients’ basic needs would be met. nursing home negligence

That reportedly did not happen at a nursing home in Hollywood Hills, according to nursing home negligence lawsuits filed recently by family members of several residents who died there under sweltering conditions following the storm and subsequent power outages.

CBS News reports a total of 10 nursing home patients died after they were kept in a facility that had essentially become a “sweatbox” in the days after Hurricane Irma. While the facility lacked air conditioning, just across the street was a fully-equipped and cooled hospital. 

Authorities report eight patients died at the Rehabilitation Center on Sept. 13th, three days after Hurricane Irma made landfall. The ninth died the following day and the 10th patient died the day after that.

In response, state authorities suspended the license of the facility, prompting the owners to respond with their own lawsuit against the state. Local police and the state attorney have launched a criminal investigation, while several family members have filed nursing home negligence lawsuits.

An attorney for the nursing home insisted the facility used ice, coolers, fans and other means of keeping patients comfortable. He added his clients are “devastated” by the tragedy and are cooperating with investigators.

A tree reportedly fell and damaged the transformer that powered the air conditioner. The facility reported the loss to Florida Power & Light, which promised a repair within two days. However, the company never arrived. Over the course of those two days, facility administrators were in contact with the state, but never relayed that the situation may have endangered patients. Then on the 12th, the facility borrowed portable coolers from the hospital across the street. A physician’s assistant reportedly checked the patients later that night and did not report any were overheated. State law requires such facilities maintain a temperature of below 81 degrees. Administrators insist the temperature never went above 80 degrees.

But the following day, three 911 calls were made from the facility before 6 a.m. Hospital staffers rushed over from across the street to help.

Of those who died, four had a body temperature of between 107 and 109 degrees.

One of the most recent lawsuits filed, as reported by ABC News, was by a 94-year-old woman who survived the ordeal. Plaintiff is a double amputee who does not have the ability to walk or live independently, and she reportedly suffered heat-related injuries and was hospitalized after the incident. She was unaware, she said, that the nursing home did not have a generator as a backup in case power to the air conditioner was cut. She further alleges the facility should have known a storm would cause a power outage, and that it should have been prepared to cope with temperatures that would rise to levels extremely dangerous for older residents. Even notwithstanding these foreseeable mishaps, the facility allegedly made no effort to relocate patients to a facility that was secure and adequately cooled – i.e., the fully operational hospital across the street.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Two more lawsuits say Hollywood nursing home and FPL share responsibility for deaths, Sept. 19, 2017, By Daniel Chang, The Miami Herald

More Blog Entries:

Florida Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Must be Met, Sept. 5, 2017, Fort Myers Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer Blog