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Family of Derry man found dead after wandering away files lawsuit

Union Leader Correspondent

December 06. 2017 12:20AM
JACK WALSH ... found dead in a swamp 

DERRY — Nine months after he was found dead in a swamp, the family of a Derry man is suing a nursing home, ambulance service and the medical center they say allowed him to wander away from a medical appointment.

Three sisters of John “Jack” Walsh Jr., a 63-year-old with mental health issues, filed a lawsuit this week in Rockingham County Superior Court against Parkland Medical Center, Pleasant Valley Nursing Center and Action Ambulance.

“The nursing home had a responsibility to make sure he was safely transported, and apparently they did not communicate this to the ambulance service that Jack had mental health issues,” said Michael P. Rainboth of the Portsmouth-based Coughlin, Rainboth, Murphy & Lown. “The woman from the (ambulance) company says she wasn’t told anything about him ... and unfortunately the woman from the driving company just left him there and never circled back.”

The lawsuit also alleges the medical center and Parkland employees did not notify authorities fast enough when Walsh disappeared on Dec. 13, 2016.

Despite an extensive search over several weeks, his body was not located until March 10. Walsh was found face down and partially submerged by an off-duty police officer on private property less than a mile from Parkland.

Ryan Lawrence, director of marketing and public relations at Parkland, said staff contacted authorities as soon as they were aware of the situation.

“While this was an extremely unfortunate situation, we believe our staff acted appropriately and we did all we could to support the local authorities,” he said. “We would like to express our deepest sympathy to the Walsh family.”

Pleasant Valley spokesman Annaliese Impink said the nursing center cannot speak specifically about any resident, but said the staff continues to strive every day to provide quality care.

A representative from Action Ambulance said it has not been notified of any pending litigation and could not comment.

“Jack’s death should never have happened,” said Joanne Simpson, Walsh’s sister. “We hope that this tragedy, although it hurt our family very much, will in some way benefit the public by not allowing this type of carelessness to happen again.”

Walsh was a resident at the nursing center in November 2016 because he was unable to care for himself, according to the lawsuit. He had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had been a ward of the state since 2010.

On Dec. 13, 2016, his sisters took him to lunch and the barbershop. A Pleasant Valley employee called the family and told them Walsh had a doctor’s appointment because he was having difficulty swallowing.

The lawsuit states Walsh’s guardian did not give consent for the medical appointment.

The ambulance service transported Walsh to Parkland without anyone accompanying him from Pleasant Valley, the suit claims. Walsh was dropped off at 1:04 p.m. for a 1:30 p.m. appointment and was instructed to sit in the waiting area, and told to call the ambulance service to pick him up when he was ready.

The family’s suit indicates Walsh did not have a cellphone and was “not known to make phone calls.”

It was while he was waiting for his appointment that Walsh left the premises and, although staff called his name, they did not follow up and look for him, Rainboth said.

Pleasant Valley Nursing Center contacted Walsh’s family around 6:30 p.m. to ask if he was still with his sisters.

Courts Health Derry

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