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Woman, 97, Left Trail of Blood, Banged on Door of Assisted-Living Center Before Freezing to Death: Lawsuit

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A Denver-area nursing home is being sued for neglect after a 97-year-old patient at the facility allegedly wandered outside and died from the cold while trying to get back in.

The patient, identified as Mary Jo Staub, had been living at the Balfour at Lavender Farms assisted living facility in Louisville, Colorado, since 2019, according to the Washington Post.

In February 2022, Staub reportedly wandered outside of the facility after midnight and was locked out.

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The lawsuit said Staub was wearing nothing but her pajamas, a robe, boots and gloves while walking around outside in freezing temperatures.

“Once locked out, Mary Jo tried to walk around the northwest side of the building toward the nurses’ station for help. Using her walker, she trudged through the snow and climbed a snow mound,” the lawsuit said, according to Fox News.

The temperature was about 15 degrees that night.

“At some point, she abandoned her walker and injured her ankle. She continued, crawling on her hands and knees 75 feet to the exit immediately adjacent to the nurses’ station,” the lawsuit said, adding that “a blood trail” was left in the snow behind her.

Despite repeatedly screaming for help and banging on facility doors, Staub wasn’t found for nearly 6 hours, according to the lawsuit. She eventually died from hypothermia, an autopsy cited by the lawsuit found.

Her body was discovered after another resident at the facility had wandered outside at around 4:40 a.m., the Post reported.

That resident had also gotten locked outside and rang a doorbell to get back in. After an hour, two employees noticed the resident and let them back inside.

That’s when they saw Staub’s body outside, “in clear view of the Lavender Farms interior security cameras while lying in front of the French doors adjacent to the nurses’ station,” the lawsuit said, according to the Post.

According to her family, Staub had suffered from an episode of confusion, disorientation and difficulty speaking, causing her to be put under a “skilled nursing” program prior to her death.

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Due to her conditions, the family said they requested that the facility place Staub under safety checks every four hours between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. However, her family claims that the facility failed to implement this care plan — even though they were paying an extra $1,500 for heightened care, CBS News reported.

Local police declined to pursue criminal charges against the facility in the case, which was instead investigated by Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, according to CBS.

A department official, Elaine McManis, said that they were “deeply saddened” by Staub’s death and quickly “sent experts to the facility to investigate what occurred and ensure the safety of other residents.”

“Where we found deficiencies, we required the facility to quickly make changes, and closely monitored the facility until it completed all corrective actions,” McManis said in a statement, according to the Post.

Staub’s family is now suing the facility and several employees for allegedly providing “lies and misleading statements” to investigators in an attempt to “avoid criminal charges.”

The charges brought forward by the complaint include felonious killing, negligence resulting in wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the defendants, according to the Post. The family is requesting a jury trial.

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