Death of 88-year-old resulted from Derby nursing home’s negligence, suit says

The family of an 88-year-old woman who lived at a Derby nursing home taken over by the state in September has filed a lawsuit claiming her death was the result of staff negligence.

Barbara Ann Bennett died March 21, 2018 — six days shy of her 89th birthday — from complications associated with leg injuries she received while she was a resident of Westview of Derby, 445 N. Westview Dr. in Derby. The wrongful death lawsuit filed Jan. 21 by Bennett’s daughter, Linda Lombard, and an administrator of her estate, Michael Conrey, alleges Westview was careless and failed to follow “standard and prudent nursing care and treatment” practices after Bennett slipped out of her recliner and hit her leg on a wheelchair on Jan. 17, 2018.

In the days that followed the fall, Bennett developed a roughly three-inch round bruise on her ankle and swelling in her legs. She didn’t receive antibiotics until almost a month later, after she fell again. By then, the wound on her leg was full of infection and leaking, the suit says.

The condition worsened to the point that Bennett became weak and had trouble moving. But Westview didn’t alter her care or immediately send her to a wound clinic for treatment, the suit alleges. It also contends staff didn’t fully assess or document Bennett’s injury and failed to recognize that diabetes and edema put her at risk for developing skin ulcers.

She died three months after slipping out of the recliner.

The suit names LSL of Derby, a Virginia-based limited liability company tied to Michael Marshall, an owner of Westview when the nursing home was taken over by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) due to insolvency.

Since the September takeover, Westview is under new management.

Joseph Fridkin, a Kansas City area attorney who said he acts as general counsel for LSL of Derby, said he was not aware of the lawsuit and could not comment when The Eagle contacted him on Jan. 25. He did not respond to a follow-up request for comment after The Eagle provided him with a copy of the suit by email.

A spokesman for the nursing home’s lender who’s commented in the past about post-takeover conditions at Westview also said that he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit. Daniel Briotti did say by email, though, that Mooring Financial “continues to move forward with a transition of the management of Westview of Derby from KDADS to Walnut Creek, an experienced healthcare facility operator and qualified to lead the turnaround of the facility.” He previously told The Eagle that anticipated turnaround plans includes building improvements and technology upgrades aimed at improving medical record keeping. Mooring also pushed for better money management procedures, he has said.

Blake Shuart, the Wichita attorney representing Lombard and Conrey in the wrongful death lawsuit, also didn’t comment, other than saying that attempts to resolve the matter with LSL of Derby outside of court were unsuccessful.

“We’re used to getting various responses to claims, either efforts to negotiate or claim denials,” Shuart said. “Rarely do we get absolutely nothing — not even the courtesy of a response, which is what happened here. So we felt that the only thing left to do is file a lawsuit.”

Neither Lombard or Conrey wanted to comment for this story, Shuart said. They are seeking more than $75,000 and a jury trial in Wichita.

Westview is one of more than 20 Kansas nursing homes taken over by the state in receivership actions last year after inspectors found conditions they thought put residents at risk. Specifically, the Derby nursing home was struggling to pay for food and medicine for residents, owed thousands of dollars to vendors and wasn’t paying utility bills until it received disconnection notices.

Westview of Derby also was cited for failing to bathe residents and not calling the state’s abuse hotline after two residents got into a fight.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit, Lombard moved her mother to Westview of Derby on July 27, 2012, so Bennett could receive skilled nursing care. Lombard picked Westview because “she was impressed with the warm and friendly nature of the facility at that time,” the suit says.

In recent years, however, the quality of care there declined, the suit contends.

Bennett’s problems started after she slid out of her recliner on Jan. 17, 2018, and hit the lower portion of her right leg on the foot pedal of her wheelchair. By Jan. 31, she had a dark blue bruise about 3 inches by 3 inches on the inside of her ankle. Ten days later, Bennett “was noted as having swollen and tight lower legs with shiny tissue with some weeping” of the skin in that area.

Weeping skin can be a sign of infection.

Bennett lost her balance and fell a second time in front of a Westview employee on Feb. 15, 2018. She hit her right shin on her wheelchair during the fall, causing a “large, purple and raised bruise,” the suit says.

The next day, she started taking antibiotics. By then, the wound was raised. A wound culture on Feb. 20 showed Bennett’s right leg was infected with “a large amount of MRSA” — an antibiotic-resistant bacteria — and another bacteria called proteus mirabilis.

Over the next several days, Bennett’s wound worsened. As a result, Bennett — a bingo lover who enjoyed sunshine, flowers and the outdoors, her obituary says — became weaker and had trouble moving.

On Feb. 28, Westview held a care-plan meeting for Bennett where some of the discussion centered on taking her to a clinic that specializes in wound care. Originally, the suit says, Westview hadn’t planned on sending her to such a clinic until early April. But Lombard insisted the nursing home immediately contact Wesley Wound Care, which scheduled an appointment for her mother on March 12.

By March 3, the sore on Bennett’s leg was “very large and necrotic with flesh that is open and cracking” on the side, the suit says. Two days later, on March 5, her wound was still leaking a large amount of fluid. Westview, however, “continued to make no changes to the care” Bennett was receiving and didn’t try to transfer her “to a higher level of care,” the suit says.

By the time Bennett saw staff at Wesley Wound Care on March 12, the sore on her leg was nearly 4 inches by 6 inches around and about a third of an inch deep. It was surrounded by dead tissue and infection.

“The wound had progressed to such a point that Wesley Wound Care was not able to offer sufficient treatment and admitted her to the hospital instead due to the severity and size of the wound,” the suit says. The sore was so bad, the lawsuit continues, that Bennett needed a wound vac — a type of therapy that uses vacuum suction to help close a wound so it can heal.

With infection ravaging her body, Bennett’s health deteriorated rapidly. On March 20, she had trouble breathing — fluid had built up in and around her lungs, a chest X-ray showed.

She died the next morning.

Her cause of death “was listed as ‘complications of blunt force injury of the right leg,’” the suit says.

Bennett “endured physical injuries, extreme pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and mental anguish, and wrongfully died all as a direct results of the negligence of Westview of Derby,” the suit alleges.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.