Mother sues Burlington group home after daughter chokes to death

  • Updated: August 4, 2013 - 3:30 PM

RACINE, Wis. — A mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Burlington assisted living center, after her daughter choked on a bagel there and later died.

Linda Berger accuses Wanda Frogg Villa/Meadowhaven, its owner and others of negligence in the death of 49-year-old Kelly Jorgenson, who was brain damaged during birth.

The lawsuit contends that staff knew Jorgenson was on a special diet but would steal food from the kitchen; knew that she wasn't allowed to eat without staff supervision; knew she ate her food quickly and required directions from staff to slow down and chew her food; and knew she was a known choking risk.

The lawsuit alleges Jorgenson was left unsupervised for an unspecified amount of time, she found bagels and peanut butter, ate them quickly and began to choke, and then ran to her bedroom — where she collapsed on the floor.

Berger's attorney, Jeffrey Pitman told the Journal Times (http://bit.ly/13dhhFi) Jorgenson's death was from lack of oxygen to her brain. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages.

According to the lawsuit, Jorgenson was developmentally disabled, mildly mentally disabled and had been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder.

The center's lawyer, Amy Scholl, said she couldn't comment on an ongoing lawsuit. But she denied the allegations in her written response to the complaint and filed a motion to dismiss the suit.

Berger said she wanted to file suit because, "I don't want anybody to have to go through what we went through."

Her daughter received brain damage from a lack of oxygen at birth, when she was in the birth canal too long, Berger said.

"And that's what killed her. That shouldn't happen to somebody twice," she said through tears.

Others named in the lawsuit include Homes for Independent Living LLC; Oconomowoc Residential Programs Inc.; Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co.; as-yet unnamed insurance companies; the Wisconsin Department of Health Services; and Kathleen Sebelius, who is secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The case returns to court Aug. 27.

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