Hear 911 call: Family sues assisted-living facility after woman dies of hypothermia

KENT COUNTY, MI – The family of an 85-year-old woman who was found dead outside an assisted-living facility has filed a lawsuit against Crystal Springs.

Kathryn Brackett died of hypothermia outside the facility at 1175 68th St. SE on Oct. 27.

She left the home around 12:30 a.m. and wasn’t found until 5 a.m. It was cold, in the mid-30s, and raining overnight, the lawsuit said.

Crystal Springs, part of Meridian Senior Living LLC., told the victim’s family it provided a safe, secure and monitored facility for residents who had a tendency to wander, the family said.

Brackett would wander from the home she shared with her husband until she started living at Crystal Springs.

“The night of Brackett’s death, staff responsible for overseeing Brackett’s care admitted visual checks of Brackett’s whereabouts were not personally performed, instead assuming other team members had done them,” according to the statement by the Sam Bernstein Law Firm.

“Kathryn Brackett’s family entrusted her care and safety to this facility, and Crystal Springs failed her in the worst possible way,” Mark Berstein said.

The law firm released the 911 call that a staff member from the facility made to dispatchers after finding the victim.

Bernstein said the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs determined that the facility failed to follow policy.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday, Jan. 12, in Kent County Circuit Court.

Crystal Springs declined to comment.

The woman, with early onset dementia, had tried to leave the facility in the past, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit accused the facility of negligence and carelessness for failing to perform routine checks despite Brackett’s tendency to wander. It said the facility should have been equipped with proper security and alarms to detect doors opening.

The woman’s husband, Michael Brackett, filed the lawsuit.

Kent County sheriff’s deputies reported that the woman was found about 40 feet from her room in a fenced courtyard. She was face-down, partially on the sidewalk and partially on the ground.

There was a blanket, shoes and stuffed animals on the victim’s walker.

Police said that the door handle to the exit door did not appear to be locked. The handle was very loose. The alarm on the door appeared to be working.

The victim’s body temperature was 71.6 degrees, according to police reports contained in the lawsuit.

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