Eighty-three-year-old Merle Fall suffered from lung cancer and advanced dementia. She was admitted to Ridgeland Point Senior Living Community on February 25, 2010, after wandering away from her home. According to her daughter, Diane Phillips, “I always said the first time she left home, we’d have to put her in a safe place. We didn’t want her to get hurt.” Sadly, after a mere nine days at Ridgeland Point Senior Living Community, Merle Fall suffered a fatal injury.
Merle reportedly was placed in a lockdown unit where she would be safe. Problems began shortly thereafter.
Several days after her admission, Merle’s daughter visited her and reportedly found her dressed in the same clothing as she had been wearing when she was admitted and smelling of urine. During the visit, a nurse pointed to a chair and advised Diane Phillips that Merle had tried to leave the facility via the window. The lockdown unit was on the second floor. Phillips’ husband checked the window, finding it unlocked. Facility staff promised that the window would be repaired.
During the evening of March 5, Merle was wandering in and out of resident rooms and was seen trying to open the locks on her window around 2:00 a.m. A resident assistant on duty found her at the window, attempting to remove the safety lock. She redirected Merle and remained with her until she fell asleep. When another employee arrived for her shift around 7:00 a.m. on March 6, another employee noticed that Merle was not in her room. As she searched for Merle, a resident told her, “Look out the window and see if that lady is there. I tried to get her not to jump, but she did anyway.” The employee looked out the window and found Merle lying on the ground. The fall shattered Merle’s ankle and she suffered a brain hemorrhage after striking her head. She died three days later.
After a state Department of Health Investigation found no criminal violation in Merle’s death but did cite the facility and required them to move the Memory Care Unit to the first floor, Merle’s family filed a lawsuit against the Ridgeland Assisted Living, LLC and Emeritus Corporation alleging neglect. The suit seeks at least $500,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.
The companies maintain their innocence, stating that Fall’s family has “failed to prove Fall was harmed due to defendants’ negligent or reckless conduct”.