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Fatal Attack of Elderly Woman in NJ Alzheimer's Facility

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Somerville, NJ (Press Release)– Rita Ellinger, 85, afflicted with progressive Alzheimer’s, moved into Arden Courts of Whippany (18 Eden Lane, Whippany, New Jersey) in May 2010 with the hope of living the rest of her life in a caring and, more importantly, safe and secure environment. Instead, according to a multi-count injury and wrongful death civil action filed yesterday in Camden County Superior Court, Ms. Ellinger was attacked by a male resident with a known history of at least two prior violent assaults on other Arden Courts of Whippany residents. Tragically, Ms. Ellinger died five days later from massive brain injuries directly caused by the attack, according to the lawsuit.

Ms. Ellinger (pictured with her niece, Luann Potere), who retired after serving as a hostess for nearly 30 years at the Clinton Inn, of Tenafly, moved to the facility from her long time home in Little Ferry, New Jersey. In the complaint, filed by Barry R. Sugarman, Esq. (Sugarman Law, LLC, Somerville, New Jersey) and Michael S. Ringold, Esq. (Dansky Katz Ringold York, P.C., Marlton, New Jersey) it is asserted that Ms. Ellinger previously complained to the Arden Courts staff that she was being harassed by a male resident. The administrators and staff at Arden Courts, it is alleged, knew or should have known that the aggressive resident had already attacked other residents of the facility. Rather than take action to protect Ms. Ellinger and the other memory-impaired residents, on the night of the attack the Arden Courts staff merely directed Ms. Ellinger to avoid her would-be assailant.

A powerful individual, the male resident was observed blocking Ms. Ellinger’s way before grabbing, choking, and then knocking her to the ground. While the facility staff saw Ms. Ellinger’s head hit the floor, she was not given immediate medical attention. Several hours later, she was rushed to Morristown Memorial Hospital after being found unresponsive in her room. Tragically, Ms. Ellinger died in the hospital on October 8th, 2010 – five days after the attack.

Besides Arden Courts of Whippany, the numerous defendants in the Complaint include the facility’s parent company, HCR Manor Care, of Toledo, Ohio. It is owned by the private equity firm Carlyle Group (CG:NYSE).

Ringold and Sugarman, who have represented victims and their loved ones in numerous elder abuse cases, said the Complaint was filed on Ms. Ellinger’s behalf by her niece, Luann Potere, of Clifton, New Jersey. “Ms. Potere and her entire family want to ensure that what happened to their aunt will not happen to others residing in assisted living and long-term care facilities,” said Mr. Sugarman. He added, “The facts incorporated in the Complaint clearly support the assertion that there was gross negligence that contributed to this catastrophic failure to provide a safe and secure environment for Ms. Ellinger.” Mr. Ringold stated, “This horrific tragedy was clearly preventable if the facility and its staff had fulfilled its lawful obligations to the resident. What happened is inexcusable and the law provides for those responsible to be held accountable.”

Both attorneys said when it comes to protecting the welfare of residents in assisted living and long term care facilities like Arden Courts, New Jersey has some of the strictest laws in the U.S. However, they noted that the laws are only effective when the facilities are in compliance.

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