A federal class action lawsuit has been filed by family of a Korean War veteran who died of COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
Holyoke Soldier’s Home Hit With Class Action Lawsuit After 76 Deaths
In July 2020, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts was hit with a federal class action lawsuit after a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.
The outbreak resulted in the deaths of 76 veterans, plus 84 veterans who were infected, in an 11-week period from March 25 to June 12.
The case is a civil rights class action, brought under the Fourteenth Amendment, on behalf of the veterans who died or were infected.
What is the Problem?
The lawsuit accuses officials at the facility of acting with “deliberate indifference to the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” which resulted in the preventable spread of the virus throughout the home.
Numerous failures were described in the lawsuit — but the biggest problem was that COVID-19 positive residents and staff were not isolated or quarantined early on in the outbreak. Instead, they were crammed together.
For example, the first veteran who presented clear symptoms of COVID-19 was identified in early February, but he was not tested until March 17. Even after his test results were positive, he was not isolated from other veterans or staff.
Staff Spread Virus Throughout Veterans’ Home
Nurses and housekeeping staff reported that they were required to “float” shifts between COVID-19 positive units and negative units, spreading the virus throughout the facility, according to the lawsuit.
COVID-19 Positive Residents Mixed With Healthy Residents
On March 27, the ill-fated decision was made to combine two dementia units within the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, despite objections from the nursing staff and the fact that several soldiers in those units were COVID-19 positive.
The veterans were “crowded into rooms and common spaces, with their beds inches apart.” Not surprisingly, the virus spread rapidly and the death toll quickly rose.
Dead Bodies Put in Refrigerated Trailer After Morgue Hits Capacity
On March 28, a tractor trailer refrigeration unit (ordered earlier in the week) arrived outside of the Soldiers’ Home to store the bodies of those who died, because there was not enough space in the morgue.
Lawyers said the plaintiffs are asking for $176 million in restitution, and they haven’t ruled out the possibility of suing the state directly.
The Holyoke Soldiers Home Lawsuit (PDF) was filed on July 17, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts — Case No. 3:20-cv-30115.