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Granddaughter suing West Ashley senior facility over grandmother killed by alligator

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Death of 90-year-old woman attributed to gator (copy) (copy)

The granddaughter of a 90-year-old woman who died after she wandered away from a West Ashley senior living facility last year is suing the facility for wrongful death. File

A woman who discovered the body of her grandmother in a retention pond behind a West Ashley senior living facility last year is suing the home over the 90-year-old being killed by an alligator.

Stephanie Walker Weaver of Charleston is seeking damages “determined by a jury, but in excess of $10,000,” according to the lawsuit filed in Charleston County on Monday.

"This was a horrifying, lamentable series of events that, with the exercise of reasonable care, we maintain could have easily been avoided," said Weaver's lawyer, Ken Connor.

Bonnie Walker walked away from Brookdale Senior Living shortly after midnight July 27, but employees did not discover her missing until seven hours later, according to the wrongful death suit. Walker had a history of wandering and sleep-walking.

Before searching for Walker, Brookdale officials alerted her family, and Weaver and other family members went to the Charlie Hall Boulevard home and started searching for Walker themselves.

Weaver “was shocked and horrified to find the remains of her grandmother’s body floating in the pond where it had been dismembered by an alligator,” according to the suit.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office ruled Walker's death accidental. The cause was “multiple sharp and blunt force injuries” consistent with those made by an alligator.

Investigators believe Walker slipped and fell down a steep embankment and landed in the water, attracting the alligator’s attention, they said at the time.

Weaver has suffered “severe emotional distress that no reasonable person should be expected to experience,” according to the suit.

"The complaint really speaks for itself," Connor said. "You can just imagine how horrified Ms. Weaver was by the scene that she was confronted with."

The suit claims Brookdale failed to adequately monitor Walker or conduct a timely search, and should have known that its actions would also harm Walker’s family.

“Defendants’ conduct was so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all bounds of decency and must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit says.

The suit also names as defendants Brookdale’s owner, HBP Leaseco, facility administrator Terri Robinson, and other unnamed employees and businesses.

The suit is the third — and the second alleging wrongful death — filed against Brookdale, Robinson and unnamed employees in the past seven months.

In November, the estate of Phyllis Farthing filed a wrongful death suit against the home a month after her death, claiming Farthing “was allowed to suffer multiple falls and suffer from multiple injuries” that resulted in her death.

A personal injury suit was filed in March on behalf of Thelma Brown, another resident who suffered injuries from falls.

Nathan Hughey, the lawyer for both of those complaints, said he has been involved in several suits against Brookdale.

Brown’s case also involves a belief of stolen drugs, Hughey said. She was prescribed and charged for opioids, but "we could never account for what happened to them,"  he said.

In late 2016, Robinson filed a report with Charleston police because she suspected employees at the senior living facility were stealing opioids. 

In addition, state Department of Health and Environmental Control records show a history of complaints against the institution dating back to 2010 ranging from inadequate staff training to patient abuse.

Phone and email messages to Brookdale's attorney were not returned.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter. 

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