Assisted-living facility sued by woman who was assaulted

Slapped by an aide, 87-year-old seeks $8 million in damages

January 24, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An 87-year-old Alzheimer's patient filed an $8 million lawsuit yesterday against an assisted-living center in Middle River, alleging that she was slapped in the face by a staff member when she lived there last March.

Also named as defendants in the suit are the nonprofit Enterprise Foundation, the Columbia-based owner of Martin's Glen, and a subsidiary, Enterprise Senior Ventures Inc.

Alta Paul claims she was slapped by an aide while being put to bed about 10 p.m. March 12 at Martin's Glen.

Paul, who had been living at the facility for four months, was hit so hard that she fell and "suffered physical pain and suffering, severe stress and emotional suffering," according to the suit.

Paul's attorney is John J. Condliffe.

Lisa Limberger, Paul's granddaughter and legal guardian, said that she learned of the incident about 5 a.m. March 13 when an employee called her anonymously at home and whispered that her grandmother had been injured.

She said she rushed to the home and found her grandmother lying in a lounge chair.

"She had bruises on her face and on her forearm," said Limberger, 31, of Perryville.

Limberger said that she and other relatives stayed with Paul for the two weeks that it took to move her to another facility.

She said that her grandmother identified Danielle Hector, 24, of East Baltimore as the aide who struck her.

Hector was convicted Oct. 12 in Baltimore County District Court in Essex of second-degree assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult and given a one-year suspended sentence and two years' probation.

Hector also is named as a defendant in the suit, as is Emeritus Corp., the Seattle-based company that formerly managed the facility.

A spokeswoman for Emeritus Corp. declined to comment yesterday; Hector was unavailable for comment.

Sandra Gregg, an Enterprise Foundation spokeswoman, said it changed management companies in August to help ensure quality care at the facility.

Gregg said the foundation, which also develops housing for low- and moderate-income families, is working closely with the new managers, Episcopal Management of Sykesville, to ensure quality care for its 70 residents.

"We're committed to working very closely with the state and with Episcopal Management to provide quality care at a reasonable cost," Gregg said.

But Carol Benner, director of health care quality for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said that if the foundation hadn't made changes in August, the state might have shut down the facility.

Benner said that when Health Department inspectors conducted a five-day review of Martin's Glen in June, they found conditions worse than at any other large assisted-living facility in Maryland.

A 120-page report on the facility, which had 90 residents at the time, included instances in which patients received wrong medications and suffered broken bones after falling.

She added that while a surprise inspection is planned, preliminary reports show that conditions have improved.

Episcopal Management has a solid track record, she said, and complaints from residents' families - once common - have been reduced to "near zero."

"If bad things were happening there, they'd be letting us know," she said.

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