A Clearwater nursing home where an outbreak of coronavirus led to at least 61 cases and eight deaths is being sued.
One case, filed June 3 in Sedgwick County District Court, alleges Clearwater Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was medically negligent and a resident “wrongfully died as a direct result of the negligence.”
The case was filed by Greg Patton and Kamela Craig, identified as the heirs of Lawden Wayne Patton. The lawsuit states that Patton was admitted to the nursing home’s memory care unit on March 1. He died about two months later, on May 2, at age 77.
Patton and Craig claim the 77-year-old man’s death was the direct result of the nursing home’s negligence. The long-term care facility’s agents did not have or use personal protective equipment to protect residents, the lawsuit claims.
They also plan to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s $250,000 cap on damages that can be awarded in wrongful death cases, court documents show.
A second case, also filed June 3 in Sedgwick County District Court, also alleges medical negligence and wrongful death.
The case was filed by Rodney Hornecker, the heir and widower of 69-year-old Delia Hornecker, who became a resident at the nursing home in July 2018. She died May 20.
The Sedgwick County Health Department said in a May 8 news release that 47 residents and 14 staff members of the nursing home had tested positive. Eight deaths were reported.
Both lawsuits point to a history of short staffing, Medicare inspection reports that found 27 health deficiencies and resident complaints about the Clearwater nursing home.
The family members say in their lawsuits that Clearwater was “careless, negligent and departed from standard, approved managerial standards and practices in failing to properly educate, supervise, and train personnel, and in failing to set and/or adhere to appropriate rules, standards, guidelines, and protocols.”
“This Clearwater (nursing home) had just a massive problem with following the standards and guidelines for protection of quality of care of patients before COVID-19. They didn’t rectify the situation. So when COVID-19 came, it was just a breeding ground for problems,” said Andrew Hutton, attorney for the families suing.
He said he expects more lawsuits.
Clearwater’s owner, Willie Navotny, was not immediately available for comment. In a statement to the Wichita Business Journal, he said the nursing home is trying its best and “to keep something like this from occurring at all is not a reasonable expectation.”
Hutton said he sees “a clear distinction” between someone who contracts COVID-19 at a restaurant or other business and those infected at nursing homes, where staff and visitors should be screened. “A nursing home is different because these people live there, and it ought to be a safe environment.”
Hutton added that federal guidelines designed to protect nursing homes have been weakened by the Trump administration, contributing to COVID-19 deaths nationwide.
State legislators earlier this month passed a law providing civil liability protections for health care providers and businesses. The protections are retroactive to any events since March 12, when a state of emergency was declared in Kansas.
“They require gross and wanton activity, which we think we can easily prove,” Hutton said.
The law states that legal protections for health care provider don’t apply “when it is established that the act, omission or healthcare decision constituted gross negligence or willful, wanton or reckless conduct.” Other businesses are protected if they were complying with public health directives.
Adult care facilities are granted a legal defense if they were following public health directives. They have additional defenses if they were required by law to re-accept a resident who had left the facility to be treated for COVID-19, or if the facility was treating the patient in compliance with the law.