North Carolina readers may remember hearing that 12 Florida nursing home patients died of heat-related illnesses in 2017 after Hurricane Irma damaged the facility's air conditioning system. Following a two-year investigation, authorities recently charged four people in the case and said that more arrests are expected to take place.
On Aug. 26, the Hollywood Police Department announced that three nurses and an administrator from the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills have been charged with aggravated manslaughter. The charges were the result of an extensive investigation that included the collection of over 1,000 pieces of evidence, interviews with more than 500 people and the seizure of 55 computers. Apparently, it took investigators three weeks just to clear the crime scene.
When Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida in September 2017, the facility's air conditioning system failed. However, the staff at the center failed to evacuate any of its patients as temperatures quickly rose to sweltering levels. The victims, who were all between 57 and 99 years old, started dying three days later. According to a firefighter who responded to the scene, a female victim had a body temperature of 107.5 degrees, which was the highest she had ever seen in her 12-year career. Authorities contend that the facility's patients should have been moved to a fully functioning hospital across the street. However, the defendants' lawyers contend that the hospital was not available and was trying to send its patients to the nursing home. They also contend that the defendants did everything they could to keep patients stable as their repeated calls for help to the utility company and others went unanswered.
Families who lose loved ones to nursing home neglect have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit with the help of an attorney. This type of lawsuit can be filed independently of any criminal charges.