LANCASTER – Attorneys for a Neffsville long-term care facility and its corporate owner say agents described as acting on its behalf in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the 2016 death of an 81-year-old resident have not been properly identified, according to objections filed in the case.
Lancashire Hall and its corporate owner Wilmac Corp., based in York, asked the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County "to strike any and all language referencing unnamed and/or unidentified agents in plaintiff's complaint," according to the objections filed July 18.
"Plaintiffs have failed to set forth any specific factual basis for the averments of agency except for unsupported statements in the above-listed paragraphs, which are insufficient and cannot withstand preliminary objections," the objection said.
At minimum, plaintiffs bear the burden of identifying an agent "by name or appropriate description" and "how the tortuous act of the agent either fell within the authority or, if unauthorized, was ratified by the principal," the objections said.
The objections were raised to a lawsuit filed June 29 over the March 12, 2016, choking-related death of 81-year-old Lancaster native Nancy W. Geary. Her son, Ryan O. Geary of Marietta, filed the case on behalf of himself and as administrator of his mother's estate, alleging negligence and vicarious negligence, as well as corporate negligence.
The complaint seeks an amount of more than of $50,000 for each of the two counts.
Nancy Geary had been a resident of Lancashire Hall since about February 2012 following a stroke, according to the complaint. She was on "a mechanical soft diet with thin liquids" and "she required extensive assistance with eating," the complaint said.
She was eating lunch in her room at about 1 p.m. March 7, 2016, when she began to choke, according to the complaint. After a nurse tried to clear her airway, Nancy Geary was transported to a Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with respiratory failure and aspiration, was intubated and placed in the medical center's intensive care unit. She died five days later and her death certificate listed her cause of death as "aspiration pneumonia due to aspiration," according to the complaint.
The complaint refers to actions taken by Lancashire Hall staff, "impermissibly presents open-ended allegations" and fails to set forth specific facts underlying or supporting its claims, according to the objections.
"In Pennsylvania, the law is clear that, before vicarious liability may attach, plaintiffs must prove the existence of an employment-agency relationship," the objections said.
Plaintiffs in the case can identify those agents, according to the objections.
"Plaintiffs have been in possession of Ms. Geary's medical records for some time and have had ample time and information from which to identify the names or descriptions of the unnamed employees, servants, and/or actual or ostensible agents involved in Ms. Geary's care," the objections said.
Defendants also pointed to a recent case, Seifrit v. Oak Health and Rehabilitation Group, with similar language struck down June 6 by a judge on the Court of Common Pleas in Berks County.