Family of Bridgeview Nursing Home Patient Files Suit After COVID-19 Death

James Zbonski Was One of 15 To Die at Facility With Multiple Past Infection Control Issues

CHICAGO, June 3, 2020 – Representatives of James Zbonski filed suit today against the Bridgeview Health Care Center following the 84-year-old man’s tragic death from COVID-19.

The 125-resident Bridgeview facility, which had a long history of citations for regulatory violations such as failing to meet infection control standards around hand-washing and equipment sanitizing, has recorded at least 34 COVID-19 cases, including 15 deaths.

The suit details an extensive history of poor infection control practices dating back almost a decade, including an infection disease outbreak less than a year ago in March 2019. Despite making multiple commitments to various plans of correction with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Bridgeview Health Care Center continued to intentionally misallocate resources and understaff the facility in order to maximize its profits. Indeed, staff members reported ratios of 20 or more patients per caregiver, and because the facility’s management recklessly failed to stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE), staff members cared for vulnerable residents either without using any PPE at all, or with reused and contaminated PPE.

Attorneys from Levin & Perconti, a firm long noted for its representation of nursing home residents and their families, are representing Zbonski’s estate in the suit.

“James’ pain, suffering, and tragic death was not just foreseeable, it was expected based on the reckless oversight of infection control and prevention at Bridgeview” said Founding Partner Steve Levin. “What’s supremely troubling is that the facility’s deficient practices, like last year when staff failed to clean and sanitize infected residents’ rooms to prevent the spread to healthier residents, are the same exact practices that caused and exacerbated the COVID-19 outbreak at Bridgeview this year.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued “Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes” on March 13, but, the suit alleges, the facility did not significantly change their practices, a clear example of gross negligence in the face of a situation that was already endangering the lives of their residents and staff.

Meanwhile, James Zbonski was dying. By March 26, multiple residents and staff members had tested positive for the virus. On March 29, Zbonski began complaining of symptoms severe enough that he was transferred to a hospital.

On March 31, overwhelmed Bridgeview staff members organized a walkout and petitioned the nursing home’s management for additional staffing each shift to improve staff-to-resident ratios to facilitate proper care, adequate numbers of appropriate PPE gear, and sick leave. Two days after that, on April 2, one of the outspoken leaders and supporters of the petition allegedly was fired.

On April 6, James Zbonski died from COVID-19. More than a week later, a state inspection of the facility, on April 14, revealed that the facility was still failing to contain the spread of the virus due to inadequate PPE and cleaning procedures.

“Even before they were faced with a deadly pandemic, Bridgeview Health Care Center failed to follow the most basic protocols to protect their residents and staff,” added Levin & Perconti partner Margaret Battersby Black. “The owners of Bridgeview repeatedly had been made aware of the poor infection control practices and inadequate staffing in the facility. Even after the federal guidance specific to COVID-19 came down in March, they just recklessly continued to work in the same way. And now our client and so many others are dead. It’s tragic.”

The Plaintiff has brought this suit under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act to hold Bridgeview Health Care Center responsible for the reckless and grossly negligent conduct that directly led to Mr. Zbonski’s death.

Levin & Perconti is a nationally renowned law firm concentrating in all types of personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death litigation. The lawyers at Levin & Perconti are committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people who are injured by the negligence of others. Please contact the firm at 312-332-2872 or visit www.levinperconti.com for more information.

Video Transcript
Speaker 1:
CBS2 News starts right now with breaking news.

Speaker 2:
Break new at 10, a Burbank family is suing the nursing home where their father died. Claiming it failed to protect him from the spread of COVID-19. CBS2 investigator, Dave Savini, first exposed the allegations against the Bridgeview Healthcare Centers last month and has this update tonight.

Tanika:
Can I call me a whistle blower, I don’t care, but the families need to know what’s going on in these nursing homes.

Dave:
The lawsuit comes three weeks after a former certified nursing assistant there told the CBS2 investigators, Bridgeview failed to follow infectious disease protocols and failed both its staff and its residents during the pandemic. The suit claims gross negligence that led to the wrongful death of 84 year old resident James Zabonski.

Tina:
I’m not the only one family that is going through this. It makes me very, very angry.

Dave:
Tina Meskill is James Zabonski’s stepdaughter and power of attorney, but she says the nursing home didn’t communicate with her about the severity of her stepdad’s condition. She says, “Despite three days of a soaring fever and not eating or drinking, the nursing home, let critical days pass and didn’t take him to a hospital until he was unresponsive.”

Dave:
That’s when she says she finally got a call about his condition. He tested positive for COVID-19 and died a week later.

Tina:
They failed, miserably.

Dave:
Do you feel like they had a responsibility to inform you?

Tina:
Absolutely.

Dave:
Especially. She says since the home was on lockdown in March and she wasn’t able to visit him to check on him.

Tina:
They had one job with one job only, as a healthcare facility, and that is to make sure that their residents are safe and taken care of.

Tanika:
We are fired up and we are fed up.

Dave:
Tanika Somerville is the CNA who complained to management and blew the whistle on the home after Zabonski and other residents died.

Tanika:
So, to make a long story short, I got fired today.

Dave:
She also spoke up about the lack of PPE to help stop the virus spreading inside, Zabonski’s lawsuit also makes those claims.

Tanika:
People is dying in that building, all these nursing home buildings.

Dave:
We know of at least 16 residents from there who tested COVID positive 19 and died. After we exposed the outbreak, the cook County Health Department sent an investigator to educate both staff and management about proper infectious disease protocols. Dave Savini, CBS2 investigators.

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