Friday, January 27, 2023

97-Year-Old Froze to Death Near Door of Assisted-Living Center in Colorado, Says Family Lawsuit

A lawsuit filed in Colorado claims Mary Jo Staub wandered outside of her assisted-living center and that it took more than 5 hours for a staff member to find her after she got locked out

Kimberlee Speakman

Photo: Photo courtesy of Hailey | Hart PLLC.

A 97-year-old woman froze to death outside of a Colorado assisted-living center after wandering outdoors in the middle of the night during freezing cold temperatures, a lawsuit from the woman's family alleges, blaming the center's staff for negligence.

According to the papers obtained by the Washington Post, surveillance footage captured outside the Balfour at Lavender Farms assisted-living facility in Louisville, Colorado showed Mary Jo Staub, 97, wandering unsupervised outside the facility. She was wearing nothing but her pajamas, robe, boots and gloves when she got locked out.

Footage reportedly showed her walking through the snow with her walker and injuring her ankle. She crawled on her hands and knees to the doors in front of the nurse's station, leaving a trail of blood behind her, and banged on the doors in order to be let in.

Unable to get anyone to open the doors, she ultimately collapsed an hour later from the cold. 

The complaint said that it took more than 5 hours for a staff member to finally find her outside, and an autopsy revealed she had died from hypothermia.

"No one at Lavender Farms was monitoring the security cameras that night... not a single Balfour employee noticed Staub was locked out of the facility... not a single Balfour employee was present to help Mary Jo in any way," the lawsuit claimed, per CBS News.

A rep for Lavender Farms did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. 

Photo: Photo courtesy of Hailey | Hart PLLC.

The family also alleges that Balfour employees lied to criminal investigators to "avoid criminal charges,"and lists several claims in the lawsuit including felonious killing and negligence resulting in wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress, per the Washington Post.

"Assisted living facilities are supposed to provide protective oversight for our elderly loved ones," Elizabeth Hart, the Staub family's attorney, said in a statement. "The Staub family wants to ensure this doesn't happen to any other member of this vulnerable population."

Staub had been experiencing confusion, depression and memory loss, and was determined to be in need of close monitoring by staff, but her records at the facility had not been updated, according to the complaint as reported in the Washington Post. The family claims that the facility assured them Staub would be checked up on every four hours between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment inspected the facility after the incident, per CBS News, and found several violations. The government agency issued eight citations, which were eventually corrected, according to the news site.

Elaine McManis with Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement, "As soon as we were notified, we 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."

In an obituary, the Staub family said Mary Jo "lived her life as a devoted and loving wife, mother, and entrepreneur" who "worked all her years to get ahead and provide a wonderful life for her family."

"Mary Jo will be greatly missed by all that knew her and forever be an inspiration to her family on how hard work, grit and determination will take one far in life," the family said. "Rest In Peace. You are loved beyond words. A life well lived."

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97-Year-Old Froze to Death Near Door of Assisted-Living Center in Colorado, Says Family Lawsuit

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