Victoria Ackerman, individually and as Power of Attorney for Plaintiff, Sandra Dunkle v. Goodwill Industries of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Inc., Senior Care Centers of America, Inc. and/or Senior Care of Plains, No. 2015-CV-6104
On July 8, 2013, plaintiff Sandra Dunkle, 61, a non-verbal intellectually disabled individual, was removed by family members from a group home operated by Goodwill Industries of Northeastern Pennsylvania Inc. in Mountaintop. Her family claimed that the negligent care rendered by the facility resulted in Dunkle suffering a leg fracture and other injuries.
Victoria Ackerman, on behalf of her sister, sued Goodwill and Senior Care Centers of America Inc., which organized day programs that Dunkle participated in while staying at Goodwill. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in the treatment, care and/or supervision of Dunkle.
On May 22, 2013, Ackerman, who was Dunkle’s caregiver, admitted her sister to Goodwill after Ackerman and her husband were unable to care for Dunkle due to health issues. According to Ackerman, the Goodwill and Senior Care staff failed to adequately monitor and care for Dunkle, who suffered multiple falls. Ackerman asserted that after Dunkle was removed from Goodwill in July 2013, she was nonambulatory, was no longer able to dress herself and was wheelchair bound.
In his report, the plaintiffs expert in health-care administration faulted the defendants for failing to provide adequate supervision and care in accordance with Dunkle’s individual
support plan, which outlined that she was a fall risk as a result of seizures. The expert maintained that staff used improper methods to lift Dunkle in and out of a van, including
pulling her by her pants into the van and not using a wheelchair van when Goodwill had such vans on site.
The defense contended that the care Goodwill and Senior Care provided to Dunkle was absent of any negligence and met the standard of care. According to the defense, Dunkle had various medical conditions, including seizures, high blood pressure and diabetes, and also had a history of falling prior to her admission to Goodwill due to seizures that would cause her to collapse onto the floor. The defense further contended that Ackerman had to help Dunkle with ambulation prior to Dunkle’s stay at Goodwill.
The lawsuit alleged that, during the relatively short period that Dunkle was within the care of Goodwill and Senior Care, she sustained a right lower extremity fibular fracture, associated peroneal nerve palsy, bruising and right foot drop. Dunkle’s family said that they removed Dunkle from Goodwill and resumed caring for her after they discovered her condition. Dunkle was examined by hospital personnel and diagnosed with her injuries. She was medically monitored for several weeks.
In his report, the plaintiffs’ expert in orthopedic surgery opined that the injuries Dunkle suffered during her stay at Goodwill were permanent, necessitating future treatment. It was also alleged that, being wheelchair bound, Dunkle requires various home modifications to assist her to get a shower, means of egress for a wheelchair and a wheelchair van to get her to her appointments, in addition to having round-the-clock caregivers.
The plaintiffs sought damages for future medical costs and for Dunkle’s past and future pain and suffering.
The defendants’ expert in orthopedic surgery filed a report in which he attributed Dunkle’s ailments to her various preexisting conditions. The expert further opined that Dunkle requires no future treatment related to any alleged injury she sustained while under the defendants’ care.
The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. The defendants’ insurer agreed to pay $1.2 million.