Anyone who says air conditioning is an unnecessary luxury has never spent a summer in South Florida. Without air conditioning, or at least fans, a person can die from the heat, especially a person with limited mobility, who cannot get to a cooler location without help. After more than a dozen Florida nursing home residents died from the heat resulting from the power outages after Hurricane Irma in the summer of 2017, Florida enacted a law requiring nursing homes to have enough generators to keep all the patients’ rooms air conditioned during a power outage. A man sued a West Palm Beach nursing home after his mother died from being left in an uninhabitably hot room after the hurricane. If someone you know died because the people responsible for their care did not take reasonable measures to protect them from the South Florida heat, a wrongful death lawyer may be able to help you recover damages.
Evelyn Bornstein, Hurricane Irma, and Darcy Hall of Life’s Air Conditioning Problem
Evelyn Bornstein entered the Darcy Hall of Life Care nursing home in the summer of 2017, when she was 96 years old, to recover from a surgery. According to her son, Howard Bornstein, she had been in good spirits when he talked to her two days before the hurricane made landfall. When Howard went to visit his mother five days later, three days after the hurricane hit, she was unrecognizable. Bedridden from the surgery that had necessitated her stay in the nursing home, she had remained in her room which did not have air conditioning or a fan. Although they had opened the window, the nursing home staff had not moved her to a cooler room; she died soon after Howard’s visit. The nursing home had one generator to provide the facility with electricity in the event of a power outage, but it was not enough to cool the patients’ rooms; each room had a separate air conditioning unit, as the facility did not have central air conditioning. Thus, the air conditioning worked in the administrative offices, but most patients were left to bake in the heat in their rooms.
Howard Borstein sued the nursing home for negligence. In the lawsuit, he alleged that on September 11, the day before his mother’s death, an employee of the nursing home had unplugged the air conditioning unit in Evelyn’s room. The air conditioning units in the patients’ rooms were causing too much of a strain on the generators, so the nursing home staff simply unplugged them. Since then, new laws have gone into effect, requiring nursing homes to have enough generator capacity to air condition all patients’ rooms in the aftermath of a hurricane, but some South Florida nursing homes have yet to comply with the new rules.
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If your family member’s death was the result of negligence, you may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, even if the family member was elderly. Contact Palm Beach County wrongful death attorneys at Smith, Ball & Báez Injury Lawyers for a consultation.