12th Death Linked to Fla. Nursing Home That Lost AC During Irma - NBC Chicago
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12th Death Linked to Fla. Nursing Home That Lost AC During Irma

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 6's Tony Pipitone reports.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 29, 2017)

    Officials say that a 12th patient who lived inside a stifling Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning during Hurricane Irma has died.

    Dolores Biamonte, 57, died Thursday, the Broward County Medical Examiner confirmed.

    Biamont was the latest victim to succumb to the sweltering heat inside the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills. 

    More than 100 patients were evacuated from the home on Sept. 13 after three patients were found dead. Five more died later that day and others passed away in the following days. Some who died had body temperatures as high as 109.9 degrees Fahrenheit (48 Celsius).

    The dead range in age from 57 to 99. No one has been charged.

    Hollywood police are treating all 12 deaths from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as part of a criminal investigation, spokeswoman Miranda Grossman said in a statement.

    Investigators want to know why the patients died after the storm even though a fully functioning hospital sits just across the street from the nursing home, Grossman said.

    But under Florida law, a prosecution might be difficult. Two of three ex-state prosecutors contacted by The Associated Press had doubts as to whether Dr. Jack Michel, the home's owner, or any of his employees will be charged.

    All agreed that any criminal prosecutions will hinge on whether the nursing home staff made honest mistakes or were "culpably negligent." Florida defines that as "consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily injury."

    Hollywood police and the state attorney's office are investigating.

    The home has said it used coolers, fans, ice and other methods to keep the patients comfortable — and that might be enough to avoid prosecution.

    "There is a difference between negligence, which is what occurs when you are not giving a particular standard of care vs. culpable negligence," said David Weinstein, a former state and federal prosecutor now in private practice. "So if they are doing everything humanly possible given the circumstances and this all still happened it may be negligent and provide the basis for a civil lawsuit, but not enough for criminal charges."

    The home has said a felled tree took out a transformer that powered the air conditioner, but it maintained power otherwise. It said it reported the loss to Florida Power & Light and was promised repairs in the next two days, but the utility never arrived.

    Scott's office said that over those two days, home administrators Jorge Carballo and Natasha Anderson were in contact with the state about the failed air conditioner but never said the situation had become dangerous. The state said they were told to call 911 if needed.

    Meanwhile, the state has suspended Hollywood Hills' license and its owner has filed a lawsuit in order to re-open, saying they did everything they could to take care of those inside in the days following the storm.

    Since the storm, Gov. Rick Scott gave nursing homes and assisted living facilities 60 days to comply with new rules that require them to have generators capable of providing backup power for four days.

    Fla. Gov's Office Deleted Voicemails From Nursing Home

    [NATL-MI] Fla. Gov's Office Deleted Voicemails From Nursing Home

    NBC 6's Tony Pipitone reports.

    (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017)

    The Florida Department of Law Enforcement set up a new hotline for anyone with information about the deaths or the nursing home between the dates of Sept. 9 to Sept. 12. The number is 866-452-3461.