PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — An Olney family filed a wrongful lawsuit Wednesday against a Germantown assisted living facility over the death of their 78-year-old mother, saying that staff allowed the woman to wander to her death.
“I was very angry,” said Heather Davis Stokes, as she and sister Pamela Davis Edward gave a tearful account of learning that their mother, Barbara Jones-Davis, died last July.
“I feel betrayed,” said Edward. “Who exactly is at fault for a death that should not have happened?”
Jones-Davis was a resident at Wesley Enhanced Living on Green Street in Germantown. Her family moved the retired bill collector and jewelry dealer into the facility in 2017.
The sisters say their mother had been diagnosed with dementia and low vision, and was known to wander from her Olney Home. The family took two years to research facilities and decided that Wesley was the best place.
“It had cloth napkins,” said Pamela, “there were so many activities that she could get involved – art, dance, spiritual – it was a beautiful place.”
According to the complaint filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Wesley staff, as well as U.S. Security Associates, were negligent in their care of Jones-Davis. The suit alleges that the 78-year-old wandered out of the facility on the evening of July 8, 2018.
A video from Wesley shows Jones-Davis wandering out of the assisted living facility and walking around.
“Barbara wandered for over 23 minutes, blind and disoriented,” said Daniel Jeck, a Philadelphia lawyer who represents the family in the lawsuit. “Wesley negligently failed to provide Miss Jones-Davis with a wander guard bracelet that day.”
The suit alleges that Wesley staff may have ignored alarms from the open door and did no search once they became aware it was open. The complaint points out that the property had no fence, which allowed a wandering Jones-Davis to fall off of a retaining wall at the edge of the property and drop nearly two stories to the cement below. She died hours later of a head injury.
“They told us nothing,” said Pamela.
Jeck says the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services had noted four other wandering incidents at the facility in 2016, a year before Jones-Davis moved in.
“Nothing happened to those residents. But they were found alone and unsupervised, people with dementia,” he said. “The family is filing this lawsuit for change, change at an institution where similar incidents had occurred before this unfortunate death, before someone gets hurt of even killed.”
The lawsuit includes claims for negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death against both Wesley Enhanced Services and U.S. Security Associates, Inc.
A spokesman for Wesley Enhanced Living issued the following statement via email:
“At Wesley Enhanced Living, we are committed to the safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff. We remain deeply saddened by this resident’s passing, and we have expressed our condolences to her family. Out of respect for the family, and because this is a legal matter, we cannot provide additional details.”