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Man's family sues assisted living facility


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 15, 2000

ZEPHYRHILLS -- The family of an 80-year-old man who died after a fall at the Westbrooke Manor assisted living facility is suing the home for negligence, claiming it could have done more to prevent his injuries.

Harvey Duchesne, an Alzheimer's sufferer afflicted with dementia, fell and struck his head during a tug of war over a blanket with another resident -- who also suffered from Alzheimer's -- in July 1998, according to the attorney representing Duchesne's family.

The attorney, Joseph L. Rousselle Jr., said a staffer at the facility came upon the tug of war and said "Knock it off," but did not stop the scuffle.

"Our position is that was not an appropriate way to handle it," Rousselle said.

The Pasco-Pinellas Medical Examiner's Office has ruled that the death resulted from an accidental head injury, and attorneys for Duchesne's family are trying to determine whether other factors -- such as a vein thrombosis that afflicted him -- could have contributed to his death.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Pasco Circuit Court, also charges that Westbrooke Manor failed to properly treat Duchesne's other maladies, including a urinary tract infection and dementia. According to a doctor's affidavit attached to the lawsuit, Duchesne was admitted to the East Pasco Medical Center for treatment of the head injury on July 4, 1998, and died six days later. He had been living at Westbrooke Manor since January 1998.

The affidavit says Duchesne was not a proper candidate for treatment there and was improperly supervised when the accident happened.

Steve Chase, the lawyer representing Westbrooke Manor, said, "We are certainly sympathetic to the parties involved, but we do not believe there is any liability in connection with this matter."

Chase stressed that Westbrooke Manor is not a nursing home but an assisted living facility, which does not require the standard of care of a nursing home.

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