Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Family of Woman Killed by Alligator at Senior Care Facility Brings Wrongful Death Case

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jun 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Bonnie Walker was a 90-year-old resident of the Brookdale Senior Living Facility on Charlie Hall Boulevard in West Ashley, SC. One night around midnight, Walker walked (wandered) away from the living center, yet the staff did not realize her absence for a period of approximately seven hours. Walker apparently was known to have a long history of sleep-walking and wandering about. After realizing she was missing in the morning, the staff searched for Walker and also then alerted the family. Stephanie Walker Weaver, her granddaughter, arrived at the facility and while searching the rear of the community shockingly discovered her remains floating in a retention pond after being killed in an alligator attack. The family is seeking damages in a civil suit filed in a Charleston County court in excess of $10,000. The claim names HBP Leaseco, which is apparently the ownership organization and others as defendants. Ken Connor, the plaintiff's attorney, described the situation as “horrifying and avoidable--if a reasonable level of care had been provided”.

The Coroner for Charleston County ruled the matter as an accidental death resulting from several sharp and forceful injuries that were deemed as being typical in alligator attacks. The authorities suggested that Walker, with her deteriorating physical condition, had slipped and fallen over the sharp edge that leads down to the pond where the alligator was located. Weaver was obviously stunned and is suffering from significant ongoing stress and anxiety. The claim says that Brookdale exhibited a failure to supervise the resident and to execute a search of the premises in a timely manner, as they did not know she was missing until 7:15 a.m.

This past year, this Brookdale Senior Community has been the subject of several injury-related suits. A wrongful death claim was filed on behalf of Phyllis Farthing that alleges she endured a series of falls that led to her death. A personal injury suit was also filed after resident Thelma Brown purportedly suffered injuries from falls. The attorney for these two cases is Nathan Hughey, who stated that one of his clients was also prescribed and charged for pain medications that he believes were likely stolen by the staff. The State Department of Health has cited the facility for failing to maintain adequate staffing levels on at least one occasion.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, roughly 60% of those individuals exhibiting signs of dementia tend to wander, which can lead to dangerous scenarios. At Brookdale Charleston, they have a specialized Memory Care community for those experiencing Alzheimer's and dementia. They have long offered this focused segment of care which centers on maintaining a structured and secure environment. The organization does claim to have highly trained staff that is instructed on the proper methods, tactics and overall approach for providing care to these senior residents.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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