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Family files $1.27 million wrongful death lawsuit against Keizer nursing home

The Oregon Department of Human Services' investigated the incident and found staff failed to provide necessary care and services to the woman.
Credit: Micha? Chodyra
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The family of a woman who died following a 2015 fall at Avamere Court at Keizer is suing the nursing home for $1.27 million.

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Monday in Marion County Circuit Court, accuses the care home staff of negligence and abuse of a vulnerable person.

A follow-up investigation by the Oregon Department of Human Services found staff acted negligently and failed to provide necessary care and a safe environment.

Facility has current license and certification

Officials with Avamere Court at Keizer declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

The 69-bed facility has a current state license and certification. It has been inspected at least once yearly and was licensed at the time of the incident.

According to the lawsuit, the woman, an 86-year-old resident at the long-term care home, had a fractured hip and a history of falling. Her plan of care required at least one person to help her out of bed and to use the restroom.

In the complaint filed Monday, the family's attorney, Travis Prestwich accuses the staff of repeatedly not responding in time to help the woman to the restroom.

The woman's daughter brought up the issue with staff at least once in the month preceding her death. According to the lawsuit, a staff member told the daughter that failing to provide timely toileting assistance was the facility's "biggest complaint."

The woman was faced with either soiling herself or risking her safety by walking to the bathroom without assistance.

As a result, the woman suffered "embarrassment, humiliation, loss of dignity, decreased self-worth, discomfort, pain and suffering," Prestwich said.

The day before her death, the woman and her family were working with her physical therapist when she admitted to trying to walk to the bathroom by herself when staff failed to help her, according to the lawsuit.

The physical therapist cautioned her against doing this, but according to the lawsuit, took no further action to protect the woman. The critical information was allegedly not reported to anyone else or documented.

ODHS found staff failed to provide necessary care

On Dec. 24, 2015, the woman fell while getting out of bed, striking her head on the porcelain sink and tile floor in her room.

She was rushed to Salem Hospital and died later that night.

The complaint accuses Avamere staff of failing to adequately care and supervise the woman, failing to properly train employees to promptly assist residents in using the toilet and failing to take appropriate precautions to prevent the deadly accident.

The Oregon Department of Human Services' investigated the incident and found staff failed to provide necessary care and services to the woman, according to the DHS Aging and People with Disabilities website, which tracks violations, care providers and inspections.

According to the DHS report, this failure was a "violation of resident rights, considered neglect of care, and constitutes abuse."

The facility was fined $2,500.

The DHS investigators found seven other substantiated instances of neglect at the nursing home going back to May 2015. Violations included failing to supervise a resident in the bathroom, which resulted in a broken leg; failing to care properly for bed sores; failing to adequately investigate abusive behavior; and failing to properly administer hydrocodone, which led to a hospitalization.

Fines ranging from $250 to $600 were issued for several violations.

In 2017, the violation involving bed sores led to a $2.6 million lawsuit against the care home. The case was dismissed earlier this year. A 2015 lawsuit accused Avamere employees of stealing pain medication and jewelry from an elderly resident. According to the lawsuit, the resident was so fearful of employees breaking into her room, she slept with her walker and a vacuum blocking her door. The case was dismissed in 2016.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed against Avamere requested amounts not exceeding $25,000 for the woman's medical care and funeral costs, $500,000 for her embarrassment, pain and death, and $750,000 for her family's loss of companionship.

A date for the court proceedings has not been set.

Information on care homes, including violations, notices and inspections can be found at ltclicensing.oregon.gov.

For questions, comments and news tips, email reporter Whitney Woodworth at wmwoodwort@statesmanjournal.com, call 503-399-6884 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth

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