WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A wrongful death lawsuit against a Wilmington assisted living facility has been resolved outside the courtroom. In April 2021, the family of Garland Garrett filed suit against Spring Arbor after he was beaten so severely in his sleep that he died. The man who killed him was a fellow Spring Arbor resident suffering from dementia.
Garrett was 80 at the time of his death. He’d previously served as North Carolina Secretary of Transportation.
The team of attorneys representing Garrett’s family alleges the facility didn’t do their job to protect Garrett. The patient who beat him had a history of hitting, kicking, throwing things and entering other residents’ rooms. The lawsuit details approximately 30 documented reports of that same individual hurting staff members or other residents at the center.
“They handed out this disclosure statement that said if a resident is an immediate danger to himself or other residents he would be discharged. That didn’t happen here,” said Joel Rhine of Rhine Law Firm.
“It’s about justice. It’s about doing what’s right and it’s about our duty to make sure it doesn’t happen again, that’s first and foremost. We can’t correct what happened right now but we can make sure that it doesn’t happen going further,” said Jim Lea, another attorney on this case from the Lea Schultz Law Firm
DSS penalized the facility with the most severe violation possible after the incident, ruling that Spring Arbor failed to supervise their residents.
“He didn’t deserve this. When you put somebody in a senior living facility and when you put your parent in there you expect for them to be taken care of and there was gross negligence in this case,” said Jim Lea.
Because of the diminished mental capacity of the man accused of killing Garrett, prosecutors did not pursue criminal charges.
The Regional Director of Spring Arbor Senior Living Center previously declined an interview request, but did release the following statement after the lawsuit was filed:
“Our hearts go out to the family members of Mr. Garrett. Families entrust Spring Arbor of Wilmington with the care and safety of their loved ones and we take that responsibility very seriously. Since 1997 Spring Harbor of Wilmington has offered personalized care to our seniors. Our policies and privacy laws prohibit us from discussing any of our individual residents or their needs. We can however adamantly state that the accusations Mr. Rhine has made about our care in our communities is untrue. Thank you.”
Attorneys representing the Garrett family would not specifically say if the case was settled, but only that, “This matter has resolved in a manner satisfactory to all parties.”
A courthouse clerk confirmed the case is closed, and no longer proceeding toward trial.
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