Lawsuit calls health system guilty of medical negligence in elderly woman's deathBy BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent
July 10. 2018 8:14PM
LACONIA — A lawsuit has been filed in connection with the 2016 death of an elderly woman who authorities say was attacked by another resident at Golden View Nursing Home in Meredith.
The Attorney General’s office ruled the death of Barbara Whittier, 82, as a homicide, saying another elderly resident had tried to strangle her and that she suffered a fatal heart attack as a result.
An autopsy conducted by the state Medical Examiner’s office determined that the manner of Whittier’s death was homicide, and that the cause was hypertensive and coronary heart disease, with a contributing cause of attempted strangulation.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said following the March 16, 2016, incident that charges would not likely be filed against Donald Sleeper, 87, because he suffers from severe Alzheimer’s dementia.
The administrators of Whittier’s estate have filed a suit in Belknap County Superior Court, making claims for medical negligence and wrongful death. Attorney Matt Lahey of Laconia, who represents the plaintiffs, claims Sleeper was known to have significant mental health issues when he came to Golden View in the fall of 2015.
The plaintiffs are co-executors of the estate Medric Whittier Sr., and Antoine Whittier, both of Laconia, and Donna Garnett of New Hampton.
The suit claims the nursing home had a duty to screen potential residents to ensure those who posed a danger to others were not admitted. It claims the home also had a duty to train staff in resident safety, teaching them about the characteristics of dementia, how to identify residents who pose a danger, and how to recognize psychiatric and cognitive disorder symptoms of residents.
Golden View, doing business as MetroHealth Foundation Inc., the suit alleged, also had a duty to train staff on how to assess and re-assess residents and monitor their behavior, to relocate or remove residents determined to be dangerous and to provide adequate security to protect residents from each other.
The suit claims Sleeper allegedly demonstrated intimidating, assaultive and stalking behavior toward staff and other residents before he assaulted Whittier after he wandered into her room.
Lahey asserts that the home breached the standard of care by admitting Sleeper; by failing to train staff to recognize his symptoms; by failing to assess and monitor his condition; and by failing to relocate Sleeper to a more secure area of the facility or remove him from the home altogether, once his tendencies became known.
As a result of the home’s failure to provide sufficient security to protect Whittier from Sleeper, the suit asserts that the victim suffered mental and physical pain, conscious suffering, fear, terror, apprehension of death, death and loss of enjoyment of life.
Golden View has filed notice that it intends to seek apportionment of liability to Sleeper who has not been named as a party to the suit. Although discovery is continuing, Attorney Mark Shaughnessy of Manchester, who represents the home, wrote that he believes the evidence will show that Sleeper is legally responsible for the victim’s death.
The defendant denies all allegations of negligence and that it should have known that Sleeper posed a danger to other residents. Sleeper is now a patient at Concord Hospital according to the defendant.
The case is now scheduled to go to trial in January and is expected to last five days to a week.