The family of a woman who worked at a Pennsylvania long-term care center filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility, her employer and others alleging misconduct led to the spread of coronavirus and ultimately, the employee’s death.
In the complaint filed last week, the family of Elizabeth Wiles said she was a longtime housekeeping and laundry employee at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, a long-term care facility in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, who died from Covid-19 “after exposure and infection” while working at the facility. They allege misconduct by the facility allowed the virus to “spread through the Brighton unchecked, infecting and killing numerous residents and workers at the facility, including plaintiff’s decedent Elizabeth Wiles.”
CNN has confirmed that Wiles was an employee of another defendant in the case, Healthcare Services Group, but she was assigned to work at Brighton.
Healthcare Services Group (HCSG) “has delivered exceptional housekeeping/laundry and dining/nutrition services to an ever-changing healthcare industry” according to its website. The company did not respond to CNN’s multiple requests for comment.
Wiles died on May 10, according to court paperwork. Dr. Wayne Ross, a forensic pathologist who was hired by the family, told CNN he conducted blood studies to determine the Covid-19 diagnosis.
In a statement to CNN Wednesday, Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center said, “Ms. Wiles was not an employee of our facility, nor did we supervise her or set her schedule. Further, we do not yet know whether Ms. Wiles acquired COVID-19 at all, let alone at our facility.” The statement went on to say, “As for the unfounded allegations, we will not tolerate litigation through slander and are working with counsel to determine the appropriate legal response.” The company said, “it is scientifically recognized by OSHA and Workers’ Compensation Boards that where and how exactly an individual contracted this virus cannot be determined.”
Wiles received treatment for breast cancer in 2014, and returned to work in 2015 while undergoing radiation, her family said in the filing, alleging the defendants should have known about her pre-existing condition. Nevertheless, the family alleges Wiles advised her employer of underlying health conditions. The family also said in its lawsuit that Wiles did not receive appropriate PPE.
The facility faced scrutiny from state authorities during the coronavirus pandemic and in previous years.
In May, the state health department appointed an independent, temporary manager at the facility to “assist with the safe operations of the facility and provide information directly to the department regarding the health of residents and the needs of patients and staff,” according to a press release. The Pennsylvania National Guard was also on hand for a week to assist with patient care. A civil support team was added to the effort on May 11 to train and assist employees in sterilizing the facility.
Additionally, the facility has over 30 public health citations in the last five years according to CNN’s review of public records.
Some of the public health citations include lack of infection control, abuse and neglect, non-sufficient nursing services and food sanitation, among others.
As of July 7, the facility reported 332 resident cases, 111 staff cases and 73 deaths among residents, according to data from the state health department.
The plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial and damages, “in an amount in excess of the thirty-five thousand dollars compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, and allowable costs of suit and brings this action to recover the same,” the lawsuit says.