OXFORD, Mich. (AP) – The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday reinstated a lawsuit against a retirement home where an 89-year-old woman was locked out in cold weather and died a few weeks later.
In a 4-2 order, the court said Independence Village in Oxford had a duty to provide reasonable care. The case returns to Oakland County Court.
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Virginia Kermath was wearing only a nightgown when she apparently walked out a side door without her keys in December 2013. She was out for 14 minutes. Hypothermia and frostbite contributed to her eventual death.
Lower courts said the damage to Kermath was unforeseeable by Independence Village. But the Supreme Court disagreed.
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“The potential burden associated with taking reasonable steps to prevent residents from being locked out and unable to alert staff, such as installing a buzzer or cameras, seems minimal compared to the potential harm that could be caused to residents,” the court said.
In a lawsuit, Independence Village said Kermath chose to live an independent senior life and that she and her family never indicated she needed supervision at night.
“No reasonable juror could determine that her death was foreseeable,” said Independence Village attorneys.
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