The family of a Korean War veteran who died during a coronavirus outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home has filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois, saying that their loved one would not have died if the home had taken proper procedures during the pandemic.
Richard Cieski Sr. was a Korean War veteran who lived at the LaSalle facility. He died 15 days after a coronavirus outbreak began to sweep through the home, and his family believes that if proper protocols had been followed, he’d still be alive.
“It’s hard for us, especially knowing before all of this that he was happy and in a place where he was very well taken care of,” granddaughter Lindsay Lamb said.
The lawsuit, seeking millions of dollars in damages, was the first to be filed in connection to the outbreak. The suit alleges the facility did not have effective hand sanitizer, that staff improperly used personal protective equipment, and didn’t always screen for symptoms.
The allegations in the lawsuit closely mirror a state report that was released last week on the outbreak. At least 108 residents were sickened by the virus, and 36 died, according to state officials. At least 105 employees were infected by the virus.
“Just a total systemic breakdown at a time when we were 11 months into the pandemic,” attorney Michel Bonamarte said. “We know enough about the virus and how to combat it and contain it.”
Former Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Linda Chapa LaVia resigned in the aftermath of the outbreak, and LaSalle Veterans’ Home Administrator Angela Melbrech was fired earlier this year.
The department issued a brief statement to NBC 5, saying that while it couldn’t comment on the lawsuit due to the pending nature of the litigation, that it is “deeply saddened” by the illnesses and deaths at the facility.
“We are deeply saddened by the deaths of our residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our hearts are with their families,” the department said.
Now, Cieski will finally be laid to rest later this month, as his family had to wait for the service due to COVID restrictions.
“It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but to lose someone under these circumstances and during a global pandemic, it makes it a whole lot harder,” Lamb said.