The family of 78-year-old Barbara Jones-Davis has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley, an assisted living facility in Philadelphia after the resident fell approximately 15 feet to her death. Jones-Davis, who suffered from dementia and visual impairment, exited the facility through an unlocked door and wandered without supervision. The claim alleges that the facility was negligent and lacked proper security procedures.
Allegations of Negligence
The deceased was a resident in the Alzheimer's and dementia care unit at the Wesley Enhanced Living's senior facility in the Germantown section of the city. A surveillance video from the facility shows that the resident exited the door and triggered an alarm. Despite the alarm notification, no one from the facility responded for nearly 25 minutes. An employee supposedly recognized that the door had been opened; however, they simply closed it without inspecting the exterior area to see if anyone had exited.
Facility Issues a Statement
The claim also names U.S. Security Associates, their contracted security provider, as a defendant. The plaintiffs allege that the parties demonstrated gross negligence by failing to have the necessary security precautions established to prevent such tragedies. The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Human Services has apparently reprimanded the facility for several similar safety concerns recently. The facility issued a statement expressing condolences and maintained that they remain “committed to the safety” of their residents.
A report from the Philadelphia Bar Association's Community Legal Services explained that the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has been lax in investigating similar complaints recently. Between 2015 and 2017, the DOH apparently “dismissed” 85% of the complaints that they received. Records indicate that in 2016 the Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley facility had approximately four residents with dementia that had exited the building unsupervised.
The term dementia refers to symptoms that are associated with memory loss that impair an individual's ability to care for themselves. Dementia is a common symptom of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, a progressive condition that usually worsens over time. Facilities such as Wesley Enhanced Living offer special secured housing units designed to care for those with such conditions. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Poor communication skills
- Difficulties with problem-solving and managing day-to-day tasks
- An inability to organize or plan
- A lack of physical coordination and impaired motor skills
Personal injury lawsuits in Pennsylvania typically stem from negligence. In this particular instance, the plaintiffs are alleging that the defendants exhibited “gross” negligence. The courts have defined gross negligence as being “more than ordinary carelessness…or indifference.” The defendant's behavior must significantly deviate from the expected standards for care. Gross negligence is typically an allegation that is made when the plaintiff is seeking punitive damages.
Unlike economic and noneconomic damages, punitive damages are those that are not compensatory. These damages are imposed to punish a defendant and serve as a deterrent to actions that are deemed as being “intentional, willful, wanton or reckless” in nature. Punitive damages are rarely awarded in these types of cases.