Seattle-area nursing home hit with wrongful death lawsuit over coronavirus death

FILE PHOTO - An ambulance leaves Life Care Center of Kirkland, the long-term care facility linked to confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. March 24, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A woman whose mother died of the coronavirus at a Seattle-area nursing home that was ravaged by the COVID-19 outbreak filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Friday against the company that owns the facility.

Debbie de los Angeles, whose mother Twilla Morin, 85, died on March 4 at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington of COVID-19 sued its parent company, Life Care Centers of America, alleging the company concealed vital facts about the outbreak before her mother died.

It is believed to be the first wrongful death lawsuit against the company, whose facility in Kirkland was the initial epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, and has been linked to at least 35 coronavirus deaths.

Cleveland, Tennessee-based Life Care Centers of America Inc is among the largest players in U.S. nursing home care, with more than 200 senior-living centers in 28 states. The company said last month that it would take stringent infection-control measures at all its facilities to guard against coronavirus.

De los Angeles accuses Life Care, its parent company, and senior executives at the Kirkland facility of “failing to disclose material facts” to relatives and residents at the home, so that her mother would be lulled into staying at the facility “in an environment, and under the care of individuals and entities, dangerous to her health and safety.”

Morin died 24 hours after contracting COVID-19 on March 3. De los Angeles never got to see or talk to her mother during that time and discovered her mother’s condition and death through voicemails left by nurses at the care home.

Life Care has always insisted that it did not know a resident at the home had contracted COVID-19 until Feb. 29, when it immediately informed residents and families.

Tim Killian, a spokesman for Life Care, said in an email to Reuters: “Our hearts go out to this family and the loss they have suffered during this unprecedented viral outbreak. We are unable to comment on specific legal cases that are pending, but we wish this and all families peace. The loss of any of our residents at Life Care Center of Kirkland is felt deeply by us.”

Brian Mickelsen, de los Angeles’s attorney, said his client strongly suspects the company knew more about a potential coronavirus outbreak before Feb. 29. He said a respiratory illness was sweeping through the home before then, and a month after coronavirus had arrived in Washington state. “My client filed a lawsuit to demand answers to important questions,” Mickelsen said.

Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Daniel Wallis