When Hurricane Irma hit South Florida in September, it left many residents and businesses without power. Included in that count was the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. In the aftermath of the storm, the air conditioning malfunctioned, and elderly residents were left to swelter in the heat; temperatures in the days after Irma soared to the 90s and above.
On September 28, Dolores Biamonte, a resident at the nursing home, died in a hospital. She was the 12th resident to die after being exposed to the sweltering heat. At age 57, Biamonte was the youngest victim of the heat. Now, her family, like many others, is taking action against the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. They have hired attorney Sean J. Greene of Steinger, Iscoe & Greene to represent them.
“This tragedy was not only avoidable, but was foreseeable as Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation had over a week to prepare and create a plan to relocate and protect all of its residents prior to Hurricane Irma’s arrival,” Greene said in a news release. “This crime was totally preventable, but Hollywood Hills put profits before the safety of their residents, which led to this unimaginable turn of events.”
According to reports, residents were stuck inside the nursing home, even though Memorial Regional Hospital was right next door. By the time residents were transported to the hospital, many had body temperatures exceeding 100 degrees — in some cases, body temperatures were as high as 110 degrees.
In the wake of the injuries to and deaths of the nursing home residents, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has had their license suspended by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Within the suspension order, officials noted that the nursing home made “late entries” into the residents’ medical records. The order states these entries were made “under dubious circumstances.”
A search warrant was also issued to investigate maintenance records, video surveillance, photographs, recording devices, electrical and air testing, personnel records, employee logs for those on duty and other evidence between September 10 and 13. Some of the most revealing evidence was cell phone video taken by a family member of a resident.
That video revealed open windows and fans blowing in effort to cool the building. The video also revealed a resident naked in an apparent attempt to stay cool, slumped over.
Due to the size and scope of the investigation, it is still ongoing. However, police are investigating the deaths as homicides.
Governor Rick Scott said the nursing home was at fault, since they didn’t transfer their residents to the hospital next door. However, representatives of the nursing home said they called and left many voicemails for the Governor’s Office as soon as the air conditioning failed. The Office said they did receive those voicemails, but the messages did not convey the danger the residents were in. Those voicemails have since been deleted.
If your family has suffered the death of a loved one due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you have legal rights. Contact the West Palm Beach wrongful death attorneys at Steinger, Iscoe & Greene today for a free, no-obligation consultation.