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Families Sue Facility for Negligence During COVID-19 Outbreak


Whitefish Care and Rehab Building with Sign

One thing for sure that is coming out of the pandemic is the growing number of lawsuits that are tied into wrongful death and/or negligence from COVID-19.

In Montana, The families of three residents who were infected with and died of COVID-19 at a local care/rehab center are suing the facility for negligence and wrongful death. They are alleging its corporate owners failed to establish basic infection prevention criteria during the outbreak of the deadly virus while ignoring sanctions from state and federal regulators.

What are the Details

As a result of the negligence, the lawsuit alleges a total of 13 residents died at the long-term care facility, including the three men on whose family members are seeking damages.

All three men died within weeks of one another, and the lawsuit outlines alleged instances of neglect, abuse, malnourishment, and other forms of mistreatment that led to their contraction of the virus, deteriorating health and ultimate death.

To be specific, the families allege that Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation Center, failed to establish and maintain a basic COVID-19 infection prevention and control program for an at-risk population of residents, even after a series of complaints.

These complaints led to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to investigate the facility, leading to warnings, violations, and a corrective enforcement plan. A plan that was disregarded.

The families also allege the facility “failed to provide adequate and basic personal care to residents during the pandemic, failed to inform resident representatives of the deteriorating conditions inside the facility, and have concealed their neglect behind COVID-19 restrictions, according to the lawsuit.

Across the nation, nursing home residents have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, with outbreaks spreading rapidly through the congregant settings and disproportionately impacting vulnerable seniors.

One example mentioned in the lawsuit describes a period during the outbreak in which 58 residents were living at the facility while new intakes were mixed into the general population, in violation of rules requiring a 14-day isolation period for all new residents.

On Aug. 31, more than two weeks after the first positive case of COVID-19 inside the facility, and after four residents had died, regulators conducted a second survey and documented numerous instances of non-compliance with infection control guidelines, despite the earlier warnings and violations.

The lawsuit also names as a defendant, the executive director of Whitefish Care and Rehab, and accuses him of ignoring complaints, guidelines and agency recommendations, and requirements, while allowing the unsafe conditions to persist until nearly the entire population of residents at the facility had become infected with COVID-19.