Suit filed after fall, death of resident who strayed from nursing home

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PITTSFIELD — On the evening of April 30, 2016, Albert "Siggy" Segalla walked out the front door of a North Adams nursing home.

Segalla, 93, who suffered from dementia, made it about 400 feet down Franklin Street before falling and injuring himself. He died about two weeks later.

His daughter, Melissa, has filed a wrongful death suit against Willowood of North Adams Inc., which operated the North Adams Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where Segalla was a patient, and Berkshire Health Systems Management Services Inc., which manages the facility.

"My dad was a wonderful man," Segalla told The Eagle via email. "A great friend, father and avid golfer. He was still walking without a cane at 93 and swinging a club in the backyard. He just unfortunately had dementia and needed to be watched at night."

The suit, filed Nov. 17 in Berkshire Superior Court, also names Robert Post, the administrator of North Adams Commons, and several members of the nursing staff as defendants. It seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages alleging wrongful death, and pain and suffering.

No court action had been scheduled in the case by Tuesday afternoon.

"While federal and state privacy laws and our respect for the family prevent us from commenting on the details of the case, we, of course, deeply regret any unexpected event that causes harm to a resident and hurt for their families," Post told the Eagle in a written statement. "We conduct thorough investigations of any such event and make changes to our facilities and practices wherever appropriate."

Chris Dodig, an attorney with Donovan, O'Connor and Dodig, the law firm representing Segalla, said Tuesday that the family placed Segalla in North Adams Commons specifically because he had become prone to wandering because of his dementia.

He moved into the home in late February 2016 and, according to the suit, the facility was aware that Segalla was a risk for wandering.

On more than one occasion, he was found having walked into rooms of other patients, according to the suit.

Segalla was fitted with a "wander guard" device, which is designed to sound an alarm if the wearer strays too far.

He had tried to remove the device with scissors on more than one occasion — a fact the facility was aware of, the suit alleges.

According to the time stamp on a piece of surveillance video, Segalla walked out the front door at about 6:49 p.m. April 30. There were no staff at the desk to prevent Segalla from leaving.

The suit claims that Segalla's wander guard device was working properly — checking it daily was a requirement — and the alarm sounded, but that alarm elicited no response from staff.

Segalla walked about 400 feet along Franklin Street before falling. That fall left him with multiple injuries, including bleeding on the brain, fractured ribs and a broken eye socket.

About 7:13 p.m., North Adams Police received a report of the fall and responded.

Police contacted North Adams Commons to see if Segalla was a patient there and were told by staff that they weren't aware that Segalla had left the building.

The nursing home reported no one was missing when police contacted them, according to a police report of the incident.

Segalla was taken by ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center and transferred to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

About two weeks after the fall, Segalla was declared brain dead and was taken off life support. He died May 15, 2016.

According to his obituary, Segalla was born in Pittsfield on Feb. 19, 1923, and later in life owned and operated a social club and a driving range, both in North Adams.

"It is such a horrible tragedy for my brother and I, his grandchildren, friends, and family to bear," Melissa Segalla said. "I am devastated by what happened to my beloved father and will never be the same."

Reach Bob Dunn at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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