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Lawsuit claims woman died in West Palm nursing home due to post-Irma heat
Palm Beach Post - 12/1/2018
Dec. 01--PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Two days before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida last year, Howard Bornstein's 96-year-old mother was joking about the storm.
"This big bad hurricane is going to come and take me," Evelyn Bornstein said from the bed of her nursing home in West Palm Beach.
On Sept. 10, 2017, Irma struck Florida and the power vanished at Darcy Hall of Life Care at Palm Beach Lakes and Village boulevards in West Palm Beach.
By Sept. 12, Evelyn Bornstein was dead after spending three days inside a sweltering room without air conditioning, a fan or any kind of ventilation beyond a window that was cracked 6 inches, her son said.
"She cooked to death," Howard Bornstein, 60, said Friday from his attorney's office on Northlake Boulevard.
Bornstein filed a lawsuit Friday morning alleging that "sheer negligence" by Darcy Hall's staff caused the elderly woman's death.
Attempts to reach Rachel Studley, Darcy Hall's attorney, and Keslerme Thelemaque, the facility's executive director, for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
The lawsuit seeks "in excess" of $15,000 in damages.
The complaint states that Darcy Hall chose to use its only available generator to power air conditioning in the facility's administrative offices and front reception area while largely ignoring three separate areas used to house residents. A second generator at the nursing home was restricted to power emergency equipment for residents and to keep the building's lights on.
Evelyn Bornstein was a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and a mother to two sons and four grandchildren. As a younger woman, Bornstein helped at her husband's wholesale meat business, but dedicated the majority of her time to raising her sons, Howard Bornstein said.
After family in the New York-area were no longer able to care for Bornstein, her son brought her to West Palm Beach in 2014 and placed her at Darcy Hall.
WEST PALM BEACH
Howard Bornstein said he visited his mother on the day of her death and said it felt like getting hit with a blast of "desert air" when he walked into her room.
Bornstein said he found his mother rolled up into a ball and "white as a ghost" except for her face, which was "an exploding red." The lawsuit contends that Bornstein's temperature reached 103.7 degrees before her death.
"She was just not strong enough to survive it, and she didn't," said Bornstein's attorney, Scott Fischer of the Gordon & Doner law firm.
State records show that Darcy Hall requested more time in November 2017 to comply with a law mandating that nursing homes and assisted living facilities have "alternative power sources" to deal with emergencies. Darcy Hall came into compliance on August 31, three months into the 2018 hurricane season, records show.
Irma knocked out power to much off South Florida for days and revealed how some nursing homes were ill-prepared to deal with such an emergency. That included 12 seniors who lost their lives at the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center as a result of heat exposure.
Bornstein's death is the only one known to have occurred in a Palm Beach County nursing home following Irma that can be traced to the heat.
Howard Bornstein said he never was informed by the Darcy Hall staff that the facility lost power. If it had, Bornstein said he would have rushed over -- he lives five minutes away -- and picked up his mom.
"Instead, they just let her die," Bornstein said.
Staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.
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