MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The family of an 83-year-old woman has filed a lawsuit saying she suffered a heat stroke from being left in a assisted living facility’s van for six hours.
The lawsuit, filed on Friday against Elmcroft of Montgomery LLC, alleges negligence and outrage.
“We hope to be able to get the full set of facts and find out exactly what happened. This obviously has to be a systemic failure in the system at the facility for something like this to happen," J.P Sawyer, the attorney representing the family, said.
According to the lawsuit, the facility had taken the woman, identified in the documents as Doris Mitchell, on a field trip with other residents on Wednesday. Several hours later, the daughter of Mitchell received a phone call from the facility asking if she had picked up her mother and that she was “missing.” Shortly after, Mitchell was found inside the van which was parked in the facility’s parking lot with the windows rolled up.
“They took five of the residents out for a field trip to look at flowers, and houses and things such as that. Apparently, they returned to the facility at about one o’clock and then at about 5:30 p.m., her daughter received a call that she (Mitchell) was missing from the facility," Sawyer said.
According to the lawsuit, Mitchell was rushed to Jackson Hospital where she was diagnosed with a heat stroke and other medical complications.
“The doctors have told the family you know the longer she’s on a ventilator the less likely she is to make a recovery. Regardless of whether she survives, she’s going to have some very significant deficits as a result of this," Sawyer said. “I’ve been handling these kind of cases for 25 years and I always say nothing shocks me, but this did shock me. It’s just you know unbelievable that they could leave someone on a van for that long and not recognize that she was missing.”
According to Sawyer, Mitchell has dementia and a “hip issue," and that’s why she was residing at Elmcroft. But after this incident, it’s “hard to tell” if she is going to make a full recovery.
“She had dementia, which was the primary reason she was there, and you know with the hip issue, she was unable to take care of herself and she just needed a little rehab and things to get back on her feet," Sawyer said.
Mitchell is still at Jackson Hospital in the intensive care unit.
We reached out to Elmcroft about the incident and received the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened by the incident that occurred at our community. Our thoughts are with our resident and their family and we are prepared to offer any support that may be needed during this difficult time. At Elmcroft, the health and safety of our residents remains our top priority. We will continue to cooperate with local and state agencies to provide any support needed.”
The woman’s family has sent WSFA 12 News the following statement regarding the incident:
“What our mother has endured is beyond our comprehension. We are still trying to absorb the appalling circumstances and we provide her the love and care she needs, and we ask for your prayers during this extremely difficult family crisis.”