ST. CHARLES – A second wrongful death lawsuit was filed today in Kane County against Bria of Geneva, alleging “willful and wanton misconduct” and neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the death of Lucille H. James, 80, of St. Charles.
The Illinois Department of Public Health lists Bria of Geneva, at 1101 E. State St., Geneva, with the highest number of deaths from coronavirus, 22, and an outbreak of 112 confirmed cases, among the state's long-term care facilities. The Kane County Coroner lists 26 deaths at Bria of Geneva as of May 18, which includes a Bria resident who died later in the hospital from the virus.
Filed by Michael Lenert of Meyers and Flowers in St. Charles on behalf of Lucille James’s husband, Donald James, the lawsuit seeks in excess of $50,000 in damages.
The first lawsuit, filed Monday, was on behalf of Helen Osucha, mother-in-law of former Kane County Judge Michael Colwell and also seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
Both lawsuits also seek a jury trial.
“This is yet another tragedy caused by the gross negligence of this facility,” Lenert said. “In Lucille’s situation, you have a woman who is exhibiting clear signs of upper respiratory infection and is diagnosed with pneumonia. And instead of following guidelines, Bria doesn’t isolate her. Allows her to have a roommate and does not take any preventive action. It’s the same story we saw with Helen Osucha.”
The second lawsuit alleged, among other things, that Bria of Geneva failed to ensure adequate supplies of personal protection equipment to staff; failed to take infection control and prevention policies; failed to screen residents and staff for symptoms of the virus; did not place residents suspected of having coronavirus in isolation; and through its negligence, led to her death from COVID-19 on May 1.
According to the lawsuit, a nurse practitioner at Bria of Geneva emailed Lucille James’s daughter, Sue Borowiak, on April 1, to confirm that she had a cough and a chest x-ray “showed some mild infiltrates (pneumonia.)”
“Despite theses symptoms, Lucille was not isolated nor was she tested for COVID-19 as requested by her family,” the lawsuit stated.
From around March 27, Lucille James’s condition deteriorated and she became bedridden and unable to eat or to go the toilet on her own, the lawsuit stated.
“Despite Lucille’s symptoms and the facility’s assumption she was COVID-positive, she was not isolated prior to her passing,” the lawsuit stated. “Bria-Geneva failed to notify and inform Lucille’s family that Lucille was gravely ill due to a COVID-19 infection contracted at the facility.”
The lawsuit alleges that Bria-Geneva ignored the interim guidelines for coronavirus, as provided by the Illinois Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “and had determined instead to facilitate the rapid spread of the COVID-19 among its residents and staff.”
In an email, a spokesman for Bria said its response to the earlier claim on Monday stands in response to this one as well.
Monday's response from a Bria of Geneva spokesman stated that the facility followed guidance from public health departments as they continuously evolved and as more information about the coronavirus became known.
“Because testing was not immediately accessible, the high number of asymptomatic carriers among residents and staff created a silent enemy impossible to detect and difficult to defeat,” according to the earlier statement.
“These form the backdrop of why the State of Illinois has granted immunity to healthcare providers for injuries stemming from the diagnoses, transmission and treatment of COVID-19,” according to the statement. “We remain committed to providing compassionate care to our residents, and as of Monday more than 50 residents and 33 staff have now recovered from the virus or remain asymptomatic after testing positive.”
Lenert said he planned to file a third wrongful death lawsuit against Bria of Geneva in connection with its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.