Our good friends at Boller & Vaughan recently settled a case against an assisted living facility for negligence in providing adequate supervision of a resident resulting in death.
Matthew Boller and Michele Vaughan represented a family whose loved one died after wandering away from a Wisconsin Memory Care Facility. Tragically, the family moved their family member to the locked assisted living care facility believing the family member would be in a safer environment. The elderly family member had dementia and was known to wander. The facility touted the safety of their center with locked doors, an alarm system that would sound upon a door opening, and properly trained staff to care for their patients well being.
Sadly, in the middle of a cold Wisconsin winter, the elderly patient was able to wander out of the facility through the vestibule and out the front door unnoticed. The staff did not discover the patient missing until the following morning during shift-change. The investigation would show the patient’s last hours were horrific. The tracks in the snow showed the patient exiting the facility, walking through the parking lot, tripping on a curb, falling to the ground, and then crawling 100+ yards to the back door of a local business. The patient scratched and clawed at the locked door, trying to escape the below-freezing temperatures.
To the family, and Matthew Boller, the pre-suit offer from the care facility’s insurance company was so low it was disgraceful, and they refused to settle. The facility staff reported to investigators the vestibule door was often propped open to prevent the exterior door alarm from chiming when they entered and exited the facility. The most damning evidence against the facility, highlighting the suffering of the patient’s last hours, was from the patient’s autopsy report. The Medical Examiner found the skin on the pads of the patient’s fingers and hands were bloodied and raw with traces of cement and metal. The patient’s passing was preventable had the facility conducted one of the thirty missed patient safety checks.