Lawsuit: Woman, 97, Froze to Death in View of Facility's Security Cameras

Her body wasn't found until more than 5 hours after she wandered outside, lawsuit says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2023 12:15 PM CST
Lawsuit: Woman, 97, Froze to Death in View of Facility's Security Cameras
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Viktoriia Makarova)

The family of Mary Jo Staub paid $1,500 extra for heightened care for the 97-year-old at an assisted living facility in Colorado, a lawsuit states. But despite a warning to staff from one of her daughters that she was confused and hallucinating, she froze to death in full view of security cameras one night in February last year after she wandered outside in freezing temperatures and a door locked behind her, according to a lawsuit against the Balfour at Lavender Farms center. The wrongful death lawsuit states that surveillance video shows that Staub injured her ankle and crawled through to doors near the nurses' station, leaving a trail of blood in the snow, and banged on the glass for help, CBS reports. Her body was found more than five hours after she wandered outside.

According to the lawsuit against the facility in Louisville, a town around 9 miles from Boulder, Staub first moved to the facility in 2019, the Washington Post reports. She was hospitalized after a fall in late 2021 but moved back to Lavender Farms last January under "Level II care," which was supposed to include safety checks every four hours between 8pm and 6am—but the care plan was not updated. The lawsuit states that on the morning of Feb. 25, Staub's daughter visited and told workers at the nurses' station that her mother was confused and they should "frequently check" on her.

Staub is believed to have wandered outside around 12:30am on Feb. 26, using a walker and wearing only a robe and pajamas. The lawsuit states that her body wasn't found until around 5:40am, when a second resident who had wandered outside an hour earlier was able to get the attention of workers. Staub "froze to death in clear view of the Lavender Farms interior security cameras while lying in front of the French doors adjacent to the nurses’ station," according to the lawsuit, which names the center, its chief executive, and two employees as defendants. Its allegations include negligence and felonious killings. The suit accuses the employees of lying to investigators to avoid criminal charges. State authorities issued eight citations to the center after Staub's death but charges were not filed.

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"Mary Jo was deeply loved," family attorney Elizabeth Hart said in a statement. "Her life was tragically cut short. Assisted living facilities are supposed to provide protective oversight for our elderly loved ones. The Staub family wants to ensure this doesn't happen to any other member of this vulnerable population." (More assisted living stories.)

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