Pinellas long-term care facility where 100+ died from COVID-19 now faces 7 lawsuits
Image via WFLA.

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The most recent lawsuit was filed in late July.

The total number of lawsuits against the Freedom Square nursing home, assisted living and rehabilitation facility in Seminole has grown to seven, with the most recent filed July 23.

Families of seven residents within the community’s various facilities seek wrongful death compensation from the owners after documented failures to safeguard the facility led to a massive COVID-19 outbreak among staff and residents last spring.

The 15-acre campus faced major backlash last spring and into the summer after more than 100 residents and a few staff died after contracting COVID-19 at the facility. In partnership with the Tampa Bay Times, an extensive investigation by PBS Frontline found sweeping missteps that led to one of the worst long-term care facility outbreaks in the state.

Employees described a lack of access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). That included a shortage of safety gowns and N95 masks. Some employees reported having to reuse masks and make inferior homemade masks. The facility reportedly continued accepting hospital patients to its rehabilitation program without COVID-19 testing until April 9, 2020, weeks after red flags were raised about that practice. Even as the outbreak became pervasive, residents and staff reported unsanitary conditions and breakdowns in communication with family members.

In fact, by the end of April last year, more than half the facility’s 95 residents at Seminole Pavilion, one of several buildings on the campus, had tested positive for the virus.

The first lawsuits rolled in last June from the families of Donald Jack and Christopher Pugh. Since then, five additional families had filed suit, including the most recent on behalf of Alice Ford, who was 90 when she passed away from COVID-19 complications on May 4, 2020. At least one case has already been settled for an undisclosed amount.

Lawsuits filed on behalf of Jack and Pugh argued the facility “chose to place profits over residents and ignore deficiencies in their emergency preparedness plan and in their infection prevention and control program.” In the Jack suit, Freedom Square offered a response denying all liability for the man’s death and placing fault with Jack himself.

Florida Politics first reported the beginning of the outbreak in early April 2020 when nearly two dozen patients were taken to local hospitals either after testing positive for the virus or for being exposed to the virus and showing symptoms. At the time, a total of 30 patients at the facility and six staff members were presumed positive. Of those, 28 cases were confirmed in the first wave, which only continued to grow.

The outbreak prompted calls from local elected officials to investigate the outbreak, including from U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

“The mismanagement and negligence uncovered by the Tampa Bay Time’s reporting is quite frankly unforgivable,” Crist said in a statement at the time. “Freedom Square was entrusted with caring for our most vulnerable. Reckless failure to take even the most basic precautions to protect residents and staff from the pandemic aided and abetted the virus as it exacted one of the most ghastly death tolls in the state.”

In the PBS/Times report, family members who lost loved ones to the outbreak describe a horrifying experience in which communication with staff about the conditions at the facility or the status of their family members was lacking, if present at all, and where residents themselves were reporting chaotic conditions and a lack of communication about their own care.

Employees interviewed described management that threatened staff members who were “spreading rumors” about COVID-19 at the facility and communication with them that failed to warn of an outbreak already unfolding.

They also described conditions at the facility where staff members moved back and forth between units and hallways, eradicating what few precautions had been taken to prevent the virus from spreading.

Staff Reports


10 comments

  • Bob Dylan

    August 6, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    Keep in mind that the author of this article will say literally anything to get clicks on this article to get money and is okay with spewing lies without sources. HAHA. Don’t trust anything that comes out of this author’s writing. Pathetic…

    • Advocate for innocent victims

      August 8, 2021 at 2:10 pm

      You seem like a paid person to make such accusations when greed is what has taken over the health care system. More lawsuits are coming

      • Bob Dylan

        August 8, 2021 at 6:45 pm

        You seem like someone paid by the media to make such defenses. You’re HILARIOUS in your stupidity. I cannot stop laughing at you.

  • Edward Lyle

    August 7, 2021 at 9:48 am

    Who knew Andy “Auschwitz” Cuomo had a second home in Pinellas… huh…

    • Emily Sanders

      August 7, 2021 at 10:54 am

      Oh please you sound like a damn idiot..
      You probably watch the news and believe what they’re saying because you can’t think for yourself 😂😂

      • Edward Lyle

        August 7, 2021 at 4:36 pm

        Hillary… that you hun?

  • Emily Sanders

    August 7, 2021 at 10:55 am

    No reference of sources? How are we supposed to believe any of this??

  • Thomas

    August 7, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    This news source is such an embarrassment and one of the reasons I don’t read the news anymore…
    I makes me want to take a knife and gouge my eyes.

    To the person who wrote this: get a damn life you hooligan!

  • Stephen Wu

    August 7, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    I used to work with Peter Schorsch(the author) and he was extremely lazy + overweight(due to laziness). He would always go out of his way to take jabs at people and spread rumors to advance his career. Now, all he does is sit on twitter, thinking he’s making a difference when he actually just criticizes anyone and will post it if it gains him popularity. Not sure how he got this job and how he keeps it when most of the things he says are lies.

  • Merrilee Albright

    August 10, 2021 at 10:06 am

    The 100+ Death Headline is incorrect. An article published in today’s Tampa Bay Times, indicates only 40 people (still a lot) died. Accuracy in reporting is essential.
    Page A5

    Local & State

    Tu 08/10/2021

    South Pinellas Edition ( Tu 08/10 )
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    Families sue Freedom Square over deaths

    BY HANNAH CRITCHFIELD

    Times Staff Writer

    SEMINOLE — Families of at least seven residents who died after contracting COVID-19 at the Freedom Square of Seminole retirement community have filed lawsuits against its owners, claiming administrators failed to adequately protect their loved ones.

    More than 100 residents and several staff members tested positive for the coronavirus after an outbreak ravaged the sprawling 15-acre complex in 2020. Forty people eventually died, making it one of the deadliest outbreaks in a Florida long-term care facility.

    Throughout the pandemic, residents of senior homes have been particularly vulnerable to the virus — accounting for more than one third of Florida’s overall COVID-19 deaths.

    A Tampa Bay Times investigation in December 2020 found Freedom Square staff begged managers for more protective equipment such as N95 masks and gowns, and families struggled to get answers as cases hit the facility.

    Families of former residents are now seeking damages, often in excess of $30,000 each, according to the lawsuits. Relatives of Donald Jack, 75, and Christopher Pugh, 84, were the first to sue Freedom Square owners in June 2020.

    The additional lawsuits, including the most recent one filed July 23 on behalf of 90-year-old resident Alice Ford, come on the heels of a renewed COVID-19 outbreak among staff at the facility. No residents contracted the virus during this outbreak, which came amid Florida’s overall coronavirus surge and was first reported July 16. Half of infected staff were vaccinated.

    Ford died in hospice May 4, 2020, after testing positive for the virus at Freedom Square. A medical examiner found her death was related to a COVID-19 infection, according to examiner records.

    Relatives of Verne Strible, Bonita Ann McCarthy, Doris Branch and Vincent J. Narcisi Jr. also are pursuing litigation.

    Freedom Square of Seminole administrators have not responded to requests for comment made by phone and email.

    Hannah Critchfield covers aging/seniors for the Tampa Bay Times as a Report for America corps member. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow @HannaCritch. To support Hannah’s work, you can donate to the Tampa Bay Times Journalism Fund at bit.ly/timesjournalismfund, and mark it “Report for America.”

    Forty people died from an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Freedom Square of Seminole retirement community in 2020.
    Luis Santana | Times

    © 2021. All Rights Reserved. Times Publishing Company. See Our Privacy Policy. 8/10/2021Powered by TECNAVIA
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