Fair Acres sued after man dies from fire while smoking
PHILADELPHIA >> The wife of a Fair Acres Geriatric Center resident who died after catching fire while smoking a cigarette is suing the facility and Delaware County for more than $150,000.
Mary Rodarmel says her 72-year-old husband Kenneth should not have been allowed to smoke unsupervised following a meal Feb. 17, 2015. He allegedly became engulfed in flames when a paper-and-plastic food shield he was wearing caught fire on a balcony. Kenneth Rodarmel was treated for burns and transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where he died March 11, 2015.
Neither county Solicitor Michael Maddren nor Fair Acres Administrator William D’Amico could be reached for comment Friday.
The complaint, filed on behalf of Mary Rodarmel by attorney Marc T. Sacchetta in Philadelphia federal court last week, says the countyrun facility violated the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments by failing to protect its residents from avoidable accidents.
“The violations of FNHRA at Fair Acres were not singular or isolated but rather were so routine and regular that they were (a) broad and consistent policy of non-compliance,” the suit says.
The complaint includes a survey of the event conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which allegedly concluded the facility failed to provide a safe environment for residents who smoke.
Rodarmel likely left the dining area of Building No. 8, where he was resident, in a wheelchair at about 12:45 p.m. while still wearing the clothing protector. He was reportedly smoking a cigarette at about 12:50 p.m. on a balcony of the ninth floor.
An employee in an adjacent room saw flames out of the corner of her eye and looked over to see Rodarmel was on fire on the balcony, according to the DOH. She called for help and was joined by another employee, who helped extinguish the flames. Both reported smelling burnt plastic and saw melted plastic on Rodarmel’s neck, according to the survey.
Rodarmel was transported to the emergency room at Crozer, where he presented with burns on his face, neck, scalp, wrists and hands. He reported that his pain level at that time was “10 out of 10,” according to the DOH.
A lighter was found on
the balcony and a cigarette was later found in his room, but staff were unaware of where Rodarmel obtained either, according to the survey.
The survey indicates Rodarmel was diagnosed with a disease of the blood vessels of the brain Nov. 25, 2014, as well as bipolar disease and Parkinson’s disease. He required help eating and performing certain daily functions, according to the suit.
A Fair Acres smoking safety assessment indicated Rodarmel was found with burns on his fingers Aug. 25, 2014, and decided to stop smoking. He became a “supervised smoker” requiring assistance to smoke on Sept. 2, 2014, according to the survey. A Dec. 2, 2014, update to his care plan indicated Rodarmel could smoke independently, but the survey states no reason is given for the change.
Rodarmel’s physician progress note dated Feb. 11, 2015, allegedly indicates he was suffering from a significant psychological decline due to Parkinson’s, with more rigidity while walking less.
Smokers typically used a communal area on the ground floor with lighters attached to the walls, but Fair Acres allegedly allowed residents to smoke on balconies
following a recent Norovirus outbreak.
The DOH found Fair Acres administration did not provide a written policy for staff regarding the policy change and failed to provide a safe environment for Rodarmel by ensuring he did not have possession of smoking materials.
Mary Rodarmel is alleging two claims for wrongful death and a survival action, for which she is seeking compensatory and consequential damages, as well as attorney’s fee and costs associated with bringing suit. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Kenneth Rodarmel, a 72-year-old resident at the Fair Acres Geriatric Center in Lima, died on Match 11, 2015, after he allegedly became engulfed in flames while smoking on a balcony at the facility.