The daughter of a woman who died of suspected COVID-19 at Life Care Center of Kirkland is suing the company that owns the nursing home.
Deborah de los Angeles is accusing Life Care of fraud and the wrongful death of her 85-year-old mother, Twilla Morin, arguing that the company was negligent in failing to inform her family of the coronavirus outbreak at the facility.
Life Care Center has seen more than 120 cases and at least 37 deaths, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in King County Superior Court.
At 4:15 a.m. March 3, a worker at Life Care called de los Angeles to report that Morin had a fever spiking at 104 degrees and was believed to have contracted the virus. De los Angeles and her husband, both in their 60s and with health problems of their own, weren’t able to visit.
“We don’t anticipate her fighting,” the Life Care staffer said in a message. “We just want to make sure your goal of care is to keep her here and comfortable.”
Later that day, Life Care workers told de los Angeles her mother was “declining quickly,” and when de los Angeles asked where the resident physician was, she was told the physician hadn’t been on-site for weeks, according to the complaint.
Less than 24 hours after that first phone call, Morin, a onetime bookkeeper and day trader, was dead.
Life Care never informed de los Angeles about previous COVID-19 deaths at the facility, according to the complaint, which claims Life Care concealed that information to keep Morin as a resident and protect its “assets, reputation and revenue stream.”
In the lawsuit, de los Angeles accuses Life Care Center of Kirkland and Life Care Centers of America of violating the state’s Abuse of Vulnerable Adults statute by failing to provide the services necessary to maintain her mother’s physical and mental health.
The company also engaged in a “continuing and routine practice of fraud and/or negligent misrepresentations which were a proximate cause of Twilla Morin’s injuries, damages, and death,” the complaint states.
“On an ongoing basis before and after Twilla Morin’s contraction of COVID-19, Defendants suppressed, concealed, and covered up material facts … in order to hide from residents … the ongoing danger and threat to residents’ health and safety,” the complaint said.
In a statement, Life Care Center said: “Our hearts go out to this family and the loss they have suffered during this unprecedented viral outbreak. We are unable to comment on specific legal cases that are pending, but we wish this and all families peace.”
Earlier this month, federal regulators threatened to terminate Life Care’s Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement and fine the nursing home $611,325 if it did not resolve a series of deficiencies that contributed to the outbreak there and placed patients’ safety in “imminent danger.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) identified three areas of serious noncompliance at Life Care: failure to rapidly identify and manage sick residents; failure to promptly report a respiratory outbreak to officials; and failure to have a backup plan after the nursing home’s primary clinician fell ill.
CMS also noted the nursing home admitted residents after noticing a respiratory outbreak on Feb. 10, initially believed to likely be the flu, “placing these residents at risk for infection and death.”
Under local requirements, and the nursing home’s policy, Life Care should have alerted officials within 24 hours of a suspected influenza outbreak.
Even after the outbreak was identified through positive test results on Feb. 28 to be COVID-19, the nursing home struggled to contain it, as staff fell ill and residents grew sicker.
In a month, the disease killed a quarter of the nursing home’s residents. Officials found that at least 167 residents, employees and visitors were sickened from the outbreak. Of those, 43 died.
The disease likely spread from Life Care to three other nursing homes, officials found.
Seattle Times staff reporters Mary Hudetz and Asia Fields contributed to this report, which also contains information from Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press.