Suit against SNF operator tossed for lack of proof company was directly involved in resident's care

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging negligence by a Utah-based healthcare owner by stating it did not have direct involvement in a resident's care and subsequent death.

The suit was filed in 2015 by the widow of Carl Schirmer, a former resident of Avalon Care Center — Shadow Mountain in Scottsdale, AZ. Schirmer fell and suffered a hip fracture at the facility, and died soon after undergoing hip surgery at a nearby hospital.

Schirmer's widow claims his death was the result of “negligence, carelessness, and breach of duty” by Avalon Health Care Inc., an operator described in court records as owning a company that is the “great-grandparent” of Shadow Mountain. Avalon argued that while it provides admission and discharge forms to various Avalon facilities, it does not handle management services or the care delivered to residents.

A request for comment from Avalon was not returned by production deadline Thursday.

In an order filed on Wednesday the United States District Court for the District of Arizona sided with Avalon, ruling Schirmer's widow failed to provide enough evidence that Avalon was the “corporate entity” that made hiring, equipment and budget decisions for the facility. The court also ruled that a physician's expert opinion filed as part of the case failed to show that Avalon's alleged breach of duty contributed Schirmer's death.

“Although Shadow Mountain did use some forms provided by Avalon during its treatment of Mr. Schirmer, the admission agreement specifically notes that all care provided to Mr. Schirmer would be provided by Shadow Mountain,” the court's order reads.