Family sues assisted living center after resident, 97, freezes to death
A Louisville, Colorado assisted living center and some of its employees are facing a lawsuit in Boulder County District Court after one of its residents – Mary Jo Staub – froze to death last February, CBS Colorado’s Kati Weis reports. The wrongful death suit, filed by attorneys for Staub’s family, claims staff at the Balfour at Lavender Farms assisted living facility was negligent and failed to protect the 97-year-old.
The lawsuit says surveillance video shows her wandering out of the facility in the middle of the night last winter, getting locked out, then banging on the doors for help. But no one found her for five hours.
According to the lawsuit, Staub’s family paid $1,500 extra every month for heightened care at the facility. But last February, the suit alleges, no one was watching Staub when she wandered outside in below-freezing temperatures.
The suit says Staub walked around the building to the doors nearest the nurses’ station, and claims surveillance video shows she climbed on a snow mound and, after injuring her ankle, she “crawl(ed) on her hands and knees” toward the doors, “leaving a “blood trail in the snow.”
Despite banging on the glass for help, the lawsuit claims, for five hours, “no one at Lavender Farms was monitoring the security cameras that night. … Not a single Balfour employee noticed Staub was locked out of the facility. … Not a single Balfour employee was present to help Mary Jo in any way.”
Staub’s family attorney, Elizabeth Hart, declined an interview, but issued a written statement saying in part, “Mary Jo was deeply loved. Her life was tragically cut short. Assisted living facilities are supposed to provide protective oversight for our elderly loved ones. The Staub family wants to ensure this doesn’t happen to any other member of this vulnerable population.”
Louisville police didnot pursue criminal charges, but the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment inspected the facility after the incident and issued eight citations against the facility.
The state health department tells CBS Colorado it found immediate jeopardy to the residents but the facility has made appropriate changes to address those concerns.
Elaine McManis, Division Director of the Health Facilities and Emergency Medical Services Division with the CDPHE, issued a written statement saying, “We are deeply saddened by this tragic event that never should have happened. As soon as we were notified, we sent experts to the facility to investigate what occurred and ensure the safety of other residents. Where we found deficiencies, we required the facility to quickly make changes, and closely monitored the facility until it completed all corrective actions.”
CBS Colorado reached out to the facility for comment but hasn’t received a response yet.