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Nursing home case involving COVID death will move forward

"People weren't allowed to go see their loved ones"
Posted at 5:40 PM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 18:13:11-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — A judge has ruled a lawsuit against a Buffalo nursing home, for a COVID-19 patient death, can move forward.

A complaint was originally filed in April 2021 by Cecelia Robertson on behalf of the estate of her sister.

64-year-old Annette Herron died of COVID at the Humboldt House and Rehabilitation Nursing Center in April 2020.

Annette Herron - Photo.jpg
64-year-old Annette Herron died of COVID.

The nursing facility is located on it's on Hager Street on the city’s east side.

The failures of the nursing home to properly respond to and manage covid 19 outbreak in the nursing home”, Joseph Ciaccio, attorney, Napoli Shkolnik law firm.

I reached attorney Ciaccio by phone who is representing Robertson.

The nursing home attempted to have the complaint tossed out, arguing the state's Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act provided "immunity" to health care providers from potential liability from COVID.

Annette Herron - Photo 2.jpg
64-year-old Annette Herron died of COVID at nursing home.

But State Supreme court Justice Jeannette Ogden rejected the argument, allowing the case to move forward.

“The defendants argued that the case should be dismissed because they were protected by the immunity law. We argued that they weren’t. That it was repealed and that it intended to be retroactive as well as the fact that our claims for gross negligence was not included under the immunity law even if it did still exist,” Ciaccio remarked.

One year ago, March 2021, the state senate voted to repeal the immunity law and it was signed by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo last April. That was around the same time the Cuomo administration was facing a federal investigation over nursing home deaths.

Humboldt House and Rehabilitation Nursing Center.

“Mrs. Robertson was in the dark during COVID. People weren't allowed to go see their loved ones. It was difficult to even talk to them in nursing homes, so there is a lot of information we've got to discover,” noted Ciaccio.

Since the fall of 2020, Humboldt House received some of the highest fines — $50,000 for COVID-related issues.

Judge's decision.

Now that the judge agreed to let this case proceed with discovery, it could be a very important decision for other cases across the state.

“Justice Ogden's decision is limited to one of the provisions in the statute and it's a very reasonable, well thought out decision,” replied Michael Scinta, attorney, Brown Chiari. “And reckless conduct, intentional or willful conduct was never excused under the immunity provisions."

Attorney Scinta specializes in nursing home neglect and abuse.

Michael Scinta, attorney, Brown Chiari.

“What's important to remember is that the facilities regardless of immunity must be in compliance with the law,” explained Scinta.

I reached out to Humboldt House for a response and received this statement:

“It is not our practice to comment on the status of matters that are in litigation, but have confidence in our judicial system as well as the devotion and commitment of our staff at Humboldt House to caring for all our residents."

Jerome Krull
Humboldt House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center

The judge has set a pre-conference hearing for the case. It will be held on April 7th.