Glenwood Care and Rehabilitation is under fire in a new wrongful death suit after a patient wandered from the premises and froze to death.
The family of Mark Billiter is suing the Glenwood Care and Rehabilitation center after he was found frozen to death near a dumpster. The case, which was filed in Stark County Common Pleas Court earlier this year and claims the 56-year-old man was a patient and resident of the nursing center. It alleges the center “failed to report the Stark County man as missing to his family or police for nearly 12 hours” after he wandered away from the facility between 7 and 8 p.m. Unfortunately, Billiter was “found dead two days later next to a dumpster at a self-serve gas station…about four miles from the facility.”
The suit was filed by Billiter’s sister, Janice Nitz, and named Glenwood Care and Rehabilitation Center and Stone Crossing Skilled Care, Glenwood’s statutory agent, as defendants.
Nitz is being represented by attorney Tracey Laslo. When commenting on the case, Laslo said the incident was entirely preventable. She added, “This is a tragedy that could have been prevented if the facility had followed its own policies and procedures. The family is distraught because it was preventable.”
What happened? How did Billiter end up four miles from the facility? Well, according to the suit, Billiter suffered from “heart-attack induced dementia, which required medical attention and constant supervision in a secured medical treatment facility.” The suit further states:
“Glenwood failed to adequately supervise and care for Billiter, allowing a man with severe dementia and a history of attempting to leave the facility to wander out the door unimpeded and then failed to report him missing.”
Prior to his death, Billiter spent years at the facility as a resident and patient. Because of this, the Glenwood staff knew of Billiter’s incapacity and should have kept a better eye on him, the suit alleges.
The night Billiter wandered away he was seen “walking in dark clothing near a highway on-ramp, at least two hours after he left the facility,” according to the suit. Police were called to the scene. When they arrived, Billiter hadn’t yet been reported as missing. According to the suit and reports from police, Billiter “requested a ride from the officers, stating he was trying to get to a family member in Alliance.” The police obliged and drove him to the Canton city limits.
Nearly 12 hours went by before he was finally reported as missing. From there, Nitz and other members of Billiter’s family “relentlessly began searching Canton, Alliance and the surrounding areas.” Soon after, a Louisville City Schools bus driver contacted 911 when he found Billiter “lying next to a small building in Nimishillen Township.” When authorities arrived at the scene, he was pronounced dead at the scene. During the time he was missing, temperatures got down to 42 degrees with a wind chill of 35 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Because of this, the suit argues that if he had been found sooner or reported missing sooner, his life may have been saved. It states, “because of the defendant’s wrongful actions, he slowly froze to death while curled on the ground beside a dumpster.” Additionally, the suit further argues the defendants are guilty of “corporate negligence, nursing home violations, malice, and gross negligence and breach of fiduciary duty” and is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.