A lawsuit has been filed with the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Cruz, against assisted living facility Sunshine Villa by the children of deceased resident Carol Fundingsland. Ms. Fundingsland wandered away from Sunshine Villa on Friday, April 9, 2010 just hours after she was first admitted to the facility. Her body was found on the evening of Monday, April 12 after she had presumably walked at least ten miles through cold and rainy weather for several days.
Sunshine Villa and its employees neglected to fulfill its basic duty to keep Ms. Fundinsgland safe, that the facility fraudulently misrepresented the skill and training of its staff as well as the measures in place to ensure the safety of its residents, and that it should be held responsible for her wrongful death. As Ms. Fundingsland suffered from dementia at the time of her admittance, Sunshine Villa and its representatives committed elder abuse by failing to adequately care for a dependent adult in its care.
Ms. Fundingsland’s son, Erik Kuentzel, brought her to Sunshine Villa at 1:00pm on Friday, April 9, 2010 to have her admitted to the facility. He was repeatedly reassured by Sunshine Villa’s Director of Community Relations, Barbara Quinton, that Ms. Fundingsland would receive particular care and attention upon her admittance. Mr. Kuentzel notified Sunshine Villa staff at 5:00pm that he would be departing and that his mother required supervision and attention. Surveillance videos later revealed that Ms. Fundingsland walked out through the front door of Sunshine Villa at 5:30pm that evening.
“When I got home late that Friday night, I heard increasingly frantic messages from Sunshine Villa that they did not know where my mother was,” said Erik Kuentzel. “They were unclear as to whether she had even been admitted; they didn’t even try to reach me until almost 9:30 that night. I’m not sure when they realized that she was missing.”
WanderGuard bracelet is designed as a safety measure to notify staff when a resident left the facility grounds. Although Mr. Kuentzel purchased the optional bracelet to ensure his mother’s safety, it was never affixed.
Sunshine Villa did not notify police of Ms. Fundingsland’s disappearance until nearly 9:30pm on April 9. The extended delay hampered the search for Ms. Fundingsland. After increasingly intensive search efforts were put into place, her body was found on April 12, nearly 72 hours after she wandered off from Sunshine Villa and ten miles away from the facility. The coroner’s report indicated that Ms. Fundingsland died of exposure and hypothermia. Extensive bruising and scratching throughout her body showed that she likely wandered through wooded, brush-filled wildlands.
Sunshine Villa staff was recklessly negligent in its treatment of this new resident. “Ms. Fundingsland was understandably upset and disoriented during her first night in this new facility,”
“The worst part about this situation is that my mother died a totally preventable traumatic and painful death,” said Mr. Kuentzel. “My mom died because the staff at Sunshine Villa failed to do their job, plain and simple. The only way to ensure that what happened to my mom doesn’t happen to other people’s families is to hold Sunshine Villa accountable.”