Family sues Kansas nursing home over 88-year-old man’s COVID-19 case

Kansas

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (WDAF) – A Johnson County family filed a lawsuit Monday against a senior living facility.

They argue Brighton Gardens didn’t do enough to prevent their loved one of dying from COVID-19.

Gordon Grohmann is described as a family man, a father who was deeply loved by his children. According to court documents, the 88-year-old died April 1 at Brighton Gardens in Prairie Village. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 30.

Rachel Stahle, a partner at Dollar, Burns & Becker, represents the family.

“These places have undertaken a duty to protect our most vulnerable population,” Stahle said. “Immunizing any and all claims against these nursing homes during the state of emergency is frankly a bad idea. It gives these places free rein to ignore the residents. The patients who are elderly, frail, and they need attention — they cannot go hours without being seen.”

The care facility has seen scrutiny from Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

On Monday, when asked for comment on the facility’s efforts to control an outbreak, the department said they have been “very responsive” and since their knowledge of COVID-19 in their facility, they have “implemented infection control measures.”

However, in a statement on May 12, the health department said: “Due to the apparent inability of Brighton Gardens to sufficiently and effectively control and manage the situation, immediate action is required by its national owner to avoid further spread.”

Around that time, the number of reported infections also began to vary, based on documents from the facility and reporting from the health department.

As of May 13, the facility reported to the Johnson County Health Department it had 76 cases with 14 deaths. 

However, in letters to families obtained by WDAF-TV, the facility said on May 11 it had 79 cases — instead of 76. On May 14, that number increased to 80, and on May 18, it increased to 84 reported cases.

The health department’s reported numbers remained at 76. They say the number may be due to confusion in some cases being reported as “out of state” and upon second look were from Johnson County.

In another letter to patients’ families on May 14, Brighton Gardens reported Executive Director Lisa Barnes would be transitioned out of her role.

Stahle hopes lawsuits like hers help families get the answers they need.

“In the end, these families recourse ends up being the civil justice system because that really is the only deterrent to future conduct that we’re seeing here,” Stahle said.

Brighton Gardens sent the following statement in regard to the lawsuit and concerns about the facility: 

“We do not comment on legal matters and have yet to be provided with a copy of this complaint. Public health experts are struggling to respond to the unpredictable nature of this novel virus, as the pandemic reaches every corner of this world.

“We continue to implement guidance from the CDC and other health agencies, and our courageous frontline team members use their training, experience and love of our residents to protect and care for our senior population.”

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