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One of the most tragic stories emerging from the wake of Hurricane Irma was the death of 11 residents at a single nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills lost its air conditioning during the storm, and allegedly didn't contact 911 until two days later. Eight of the facility's patients died the next day, many from respiratory or cardiac distress, some of whom arrived at hospitals with body temperatures of 109.9, 108.5, 108.3, and 107.
There are now a multitude of lawsuits being filed against the nursing home, claiming administrators and staff were negligent in their care of residents.
Gail Nova, Estella Hendricks, Carolyn Eatherly, Betty Hubbard, Bobby Owens, Miguel Antonio Franco, Manuel Mario Mendieta, and Albertina Vega all died in the Hollywood Hills facility, which has been shut down amid a criminal investigation. While the nursing home's owner, Jack Michel, has declined to comment on pending lawsuits, the facility insisted it called utility Florida Power & Light 50 times, and also claimed it called an emergency number issued by Florida Governor Rick Scott, all without adequate response.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration suspended the nursing home's license last week. According to reports, the agency had previously banned the facility from admitting new patients and from receiving Medicaid. Most recently the agency cited the Rehabilitation Center because it "failed to maintain the emergency generator."
There are almost too many lawsuits regarding the deaths at Hollywood Hills to count. Some have been filed by the deceased victims' families, others by survivors who endured the blistering temperatures at the facility. Some are targeted solely at the facility, its owner, and employees for not evacuating or contacting emergency services sooner, others name FPL and claim the utility should have prioritized the nursing home for power restoration.
"They should have moved them out sooner even if FPL failed to do what they had to do," Carlos Silva, a Coral Gables attorney told the Miami Herald regarding the liability of the nursing home's administrators. "They could have moved the residents across the street. Ultimately, it's their responsibility for the patients, but FPL definitely has fault here."