The sister of a man who received fatal burns from scalding bath water at D.C. Village, the city-run nursing home, filed suit in D.C. Superior Court yesterday seeking $4 million in damages from the District government.
Katheryn Spells Jackson, sister of George Austin Spells, claimed that the District was negligent in allowing the water temperature in the bathtub to exceed 110 degrees, the maximum temperature allowed in city nursing homes.
A spokeswoman for the D.C. public health commission, which runs D.C. Village, said city officials would have no comment on the suit while it is in litigation.
Spells, who was wheelchair-bound and mentally incapacitated, was found with second- and third-degree burns from scalding bath water on March 19.
He was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where he died of his injuries on April 1.
Jackson, Spells' next of kin, is claiming $3 million in general damages for Spells' estate, saying that he "suffered extreme physical pain and emotional suffering as well as the loss of his life."
She also is claiming $1 million for herself in damages from the District government. The wrongful death action said that Jackson "has been deprived of the comfort, society, and love of her only brother" and has incurred funeral and related expenses.
Spells, 71, was the second resident of D.C. Village to die in an unusual manner this year.
In the first incident, 86-year-old Wilhelmina Franklin froze to death in January next to her tipped-over wheelchair when she wandered outside.
District officials and a D.C. homicide detective have said that Spells put himself into the bathtub.
While water temperature had been a problem, a sign warning of hot water had been posted on that tub, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Human Services has said.
Jackson has said that Spells told her before he died that a nurse put him into the tub.
But Dean E. Swartz, Jackson's attorney, said that regardless of how Spells got in the tub, the city was negligent for not supervising him properly and for allowing a condition of dangerously hot water to exist.
Spells "was not aware of and/or incapable of appreciating the fact that the water temperature at the fixture on the tub in which he was fatally burned was so great as to expose him to the risk of severe burn injuries and death," the suit said.