- Free Consultations / No Fees Until We Win
- (213) 927-3700
Personal Injury Firm
A woman has reportedly filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging her 88-year-old father died from COVID-19 last year after staff at an assisted-care facility allowed residents to commingle and failed to enforce social distancing.
In the complaint against Sunrise Villa Culver City, Jessica Hopman is seeking unspecified damages on behalf of her father Gerald Hopman. The complaint was transferred last week from state to federal court given that the claims made fall under a federal emergency preparedness act.
According to the suit, Gerald Hopman was admitted into a one-bedroom assisted-living apartment at Sunrise Villa in 2018. and was properly cared for by staff for nearly a year. However, his care began to suffer in August 2019 in part due to Sunrise Villa being understaffed. Because his eyesight and mobility began to deteriorate in early 2020, it was agreed that Hopman would move into a smaller studio apartment in the assisted-living unit. Gerald Hopman moved into the studio apartment on March 13. Three days later, a letter to his family assured them that Sunrise Villa was taking precautions to prevent residents from contracting and spreading COVID-19.
The lawsuit then states that Sunrise Villa was then placed on lockdown, restricting relatives, private caregivers, hospice nurses, and physicians from visiting Hopman because he was an independent resident and not terminally ill. Executive Director Shane Fowler went on to tell Jessica Hopman there were no COVID-19 cases among residents and that her father had no symptoms, adding that Sunrise Villa was “in a good position” since residents were isolated in their apartments.
But on April 16, Jessica Hopman learned that Sunrise Villa staff had moved all of her father’s furniture and belongings to a shared room at Terrace Club, the facility’s memory-care center, without her consent, to which she expressed concern. When Jessica was able to visit her father at the Terrace Club, the lawsuit recounts: “Defendants’ staff and the residents were wandering the halls and common areas without masks and without making any attempts to socially distance. The doors of the residents’ rooms were left wide open.” Jessica said she was later told that Terrace Club residents were not allowed to be confined to their rooms due to their mental conditions.
Gerald and other Terrace Club residents were tested for COVID-19 on April 30. Over the next several days, he stopped eating, lost weight, struggled to speak, had a cough, and was rapidly deteriorating. Jessica found out her father and seven other residents of the Terrace Club, along with nine caregivers, had tested positive for COVID-19 on May 4. Her father died from COVID-19-related complications eight days later.
The lawsuit reportedly states: “Defendants’ failure to protect Mr. Hopman from known health and safety hazards and provide care for his physical health needs is statutory neglect. The defendants … conceived of and implemented a plan to wrongfully increase their business profits at the expense of residents such as Mr. Hopman.”
The suit further states: “Defendants should have identified that Mr. Hopman’s health condition required a greater level of care. Instead, defendants let Mr. Hopman’s COVID-19 infection and change of condition go untreated as his hospice and private caregivers remained restricted and the facility continued to be understaffed.”
In an email to SiliconValley.com, officials said that they do not comment on pending legal matters. However, they did share that they remain resolute and proactive in their efforts to fight COVID-19 in their community: “We continue to implement guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and other health agencies, to inform Sunrise’s infection control efforts to help ensure all necessary actions and the appropriate precautions are in place to prevent the spread of the virus. We focus every day on keeping our residents and team members safe and healthy even in the face of rapidly changing conditions and evolving guidelines.”
Hopman’s wrongful death suit is at least the second of its kind involving a COVID-19 death at Sunrise Villa facilities in Southern California. Three brothers have reportedly filed a complaint in U.S. District Court alleging their 89-year-old father was killed by the virus largely because of staff neglect at Sunrise Villa Bradford in Placentia. According to the California Department of Public Health, fewer than 11 residents at Sunrise Villa died from COVID-19.