Complaint seeks to preserve video, photos from nursing home where 8 died

A Miami law firm Friday filed a court complaint against Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills following the deaths of eight residents at the facility Wednesday.

Attorneys with Leighton Law filed the emergency petition in Broward Circuit Court on behalf of the family of Albertina Vega, one of the eight people who died after a portable air cooler malfunctioned at the nursing home, located at 1200 N. 35th Ave in Hollywood.

Memorial Regional Hospital’s emergency room is directly across the street.

The Hollywood Police Department has opened a criminal investigation into the deaths. The Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children & Families have begun their own investigations.

The complaint asks for the preservation of all video and photographs taken in the nursing home from Sept. 8, the day before South Florida was expected to start experiencing increased winds from Hurricane Irma, to Sept. 13. It also seeks to preserve all records pertaining to air conditioning equipment, hurricane preparation, procedures to monitor patient temperatures and patient transfers.

Also subject of the petition: reports and documents specifically concerning Vega — who, at 99, was the oldest of the eight residents to die.

The Herald contacted Larkin Community Hospital, which owns the rehab center, seeking comment but had not heard back.

In addition to naming the rehabilitation center, the complaint also lists the nursing home’s manager, Dr. Jack Michel; the administrator, Jorge Carballo; the financial officer, Mark P. Early; and the director of nursing, Maria Colon.

John Leighton, managing partner of the law firm, said he was concerned, given the history of the rehabilitation center, that evidence would disappear or be altered.

He’s hoping the complaint preserves evidence for all families affected.

Leighton said the facility didn’t spend what was needed to guarantee residents’ safety.

“It’s much bigger than one person,” he added, “and until we get to the bottom of what happened here, based on what’s available to us, that this is about money and neglect.”