Several families have filed lawsuits against a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida after several residents died as a result of the facility losing power in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. The power outage caused temperatures to skyrocket and 11 patients, several of whom were in stable conditions days earlier, passed away from the unbearable heat. It was also alleged that staff members didn’t contact 911 regarding the power outage until two days after the incident. Lawsuits have been filed against the nursing home, Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, accusing the center of negligent care of the residents and failing to adequately respond to the residents’ perilous conditions. Other residents filed additional lawsuits against the home for the suffering they endured during the aftermath of the natural disaster.
This past September, Hurricane Irma caused immense destruction along its path, including Hollywood, Florida. According to a report from the Miami Herald, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills lost power on September 10 from the storm. The facility’s central air conditioning system became inoperative and temperatures quickly soared to a scorching heat. In another report from Fox News, it was revealed that facility staff alerted Broward County emergency personnel of the power outage on Tuesday of that week, but did not request help for any medical emergencies. It wasn’t until Wednesday that the nursing home began making distress calls to emergency operators regarding its residents. By the time fire fighters arrived at the scene, three patients had already passed away from heat-caused ailments and another five passed away by the afternoon.
One of the key issues listed in these lawsuits is the nursing home’s failure to maintain an emergency generator. The separate transformer that powered the central air conditioning unit did not have a backup generator. While one backup generator provided power to a portion of the nursing home, it only offered power to lights and appliances. In February of 2016, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was noted by the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration for a failure to maintain an emergency generator. The agency previously banned the facility from receiving new patients and from receiving Medicaid, according to the same report from Fox News and an additional article published by FindLaw.
The first lawsuit filed against the rehabilitation center was from the family of a 94-year-old patient. Rosa Cabrera is a double amputee who suffers from diabetes. Her family stated in their negligence lawsuit that “she could not care for herself or escape the horrific conditions” and she suffered a great deal of pain and suffering throughout the incident. Cabrera was not evacuated until three days after the air conditioning system stopped working, along with the remaining 141 occupants who received an incredibly delayed evacuation.
Other victims and their families have filed lawsuits against Florida Power & Light in wake of this tragedy. In an article published by CBS News, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills claimed to have called Florida Power & Light 50 times after they lost power for the central air conditioning unit. Several reports insist that upon notification of the nursing home’s situation, Florida Power & Light should have prioritized the center and arrived to fix the power within hours rather than days. Florida Power & Light declined to comment to news outlets on their response-time decision. They did mention that a local hospital was steps away from the nursing home, implying the responsibility of the patient’s wellbeing was solely belonging to the rehabilitation center. Soon after the occupants had been evacuated, the power company arrived and fixed the blown transformer in 15 minutes.
Since the tragedy, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has suspended the license of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. Tragedies like this happen when caretakers choose not to prioritize their patients or make appropriate decisions during times of emergency. If you currently have a loved one living in a retirement home or assisted living center, always stay alert for any signs of misconduct or inadequate care from staff members. If you or a loved one has suffered because of nursing home abuse, contact one of our personal injury attorneys at Schneider Hammers today. We are ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.