The Gardens at Stevens -- Lawsuit Story (copy)

The Gardens at Stevens nursing home in Denver Borough, pictured here, is being sued by families of former residents for allegedly failing to protect their loved ones from a fatal COVID-19 outbreak.

Families of 11 former residents of Gardens at Stevens are suing the Denver Borough nursing home for allegedly failing to provide adequate protection against an outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2020, leading to the deaths of their loved ones and dozens of others.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Lancaster County Court, alleges the owners of the facility did not properly staff or plan for a potential outbreak and were unprepared to comply with state guidance issued earlier in the year for facilities like theirs.

“They weren’t given adequate training. They weren’t given adequate resources. And there wasn’t adequate support for them to do what they had to do to keep [COVID-19] from spreading,” said Martin Kardon, a lawyer representing the families.

Gardens at Stevens declined to comment on the lawsuit. A voicemail left for a lawyer representing the nursing home was not immediately returned.

Kardon began the legal process for filing the suit in February 2021, by which time 39 people at the facility – nearly 60% of its residents – had died. At the time, the death toll was the second-largest in Lancaster County, second only to Conestoga View Nursing and Rehabilitation in Lancaster Township, which has more than five times as many beds and 81 deaths as of a year ago, according to the state Department of Health.

The lawsuit alleges the owners of the Gardens, a private corporation based in New York, didn’t maintain proper infrastructure for the type of robust testing, contact-tracing and social distancing needed to contain COVID-19. 

People 60 and older are especially vulnerable to the virus, accounting for nearly 90% of all COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania, and deaths in nursing homes constituted a large share of the fatalities early in the pandemic, according to data from the state.

“At the end of the day, the people I’m representing just want to know who’s responsible, and that person, persons or organizations are held accountable,” Kardon said.

Scott Zerkowski, 60, lost his mother to COVID-19 in December 2020 after she contracted the virus at the Gardens, he said. Zerkowski, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he never knew the extent of the deaths occurring in the nursing home until it was too late, and he hopes the lawsuit reveals more about what occurred during the outbreak.

“I’m doing this to speak for my mom,” Zerkowski said. “I think the story needs to continue to be told. I’m hoping for change.”

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