Family of Westchester Nursing Home COVID-19 Victim Files Suit

Family of Westchester Nursing Home COVID-19 Victim Files Suit

Rita Saunders Is One of 12 Dead at Facility With History of Neglect

CHICAGO, June 2, 2020 – Attorneys today filed suit on behalf of the family of 64-year-old Rita Saunders, who died in March following exposure to the novel coronavirus at the Westchester Health and Rehabilitation Center.

The Westchester center was the site of an early and sustained outbreak, with 47 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported at the 120-bed facility, including 12 deaths.

In early March, residents of the nursing home, along with the staff at the facility began to show symptoms of COVID-19. The lawsuit alleges that residents’ complaints went unnoticed or were disregarded, and the caregivers were ordered to continue reporting to work despite their symptoms. No personal protective equipment (PPE) was made available for their use. Even after the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidelines on March 13 clearly stating that no one with symptoms of respiratory illness should enter long-term care facilities, the Westchester Health and Rehabilitation Center failed to implement facility-wide infection control and prevention protocols, and symptomatic workers continued their unmasked and unprotected contact with residents.

Attorneys from Levin & Perconti, a firm long noted for its representation of nursing home residents and their families, are representing Rita Saunders’ sister, Eileen Walsh, in her suit against Westchester.

“Rita’s death was the byproduct of years of the nursing home’s mismanagement, misallocation of resources and understaffing, and repeated violations and cited deficiencies of Infection Control and Prevention requirements,” said Founding Partner Steve Levin. “Communicable diseases have always had a profoundly lethal impact on vulnerable nursing home residents. This isn’t a new concept. And here we have widely reported cases of COVID-19 in Illinois dating back to January. Yet, by mid-March, this facility was still sitting on their hands and doing nothing to protect residents like Rita Saunders.”

The lawsuit charts years of regulatory infractions and citations by the Illinois Department of Public Health for the facility’s failures in implementing infection control and prevention procedures. The Complaint tracks the reckless conduct of the nursing home, and the devastating deterioration in Saunders’ condition from March 14, when a note on her chart indicated that a chest X-ray was in order, to March 16, when she complained of pain, to March 20, when she was wracked with coughing. On March 23, she was sent to the hospital with dangerously low levels of oxygen in her blood. On March 31, she died from COVID-19.

“Rita’s complaints fell on deaf ears until it was too late,” said Walsh, her sister.

“This is a facility that put profits over the health and safety of its residents and staff,” said Levin & Perconti Partner, Margaret Battersby Black. “We are bringing this suit for their violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, and seeking damages to compensate Rita and her family for the loss of their loved one due to the shocking and reckless conduct of the nursing home. They failed to take even the most basic steps to protect their residents and must be held accountable for that failure.”

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 for more information.



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