The family of certified nursing assistant Tara Pendergrass, who died due to COVID-19 complications, alleges that her employer failed to take action to protect her and other staffers from the deadly virus. The Pendergrass family turned to Attorney Todd King of Lanier Law Group, P.A. for help with their worker’s compensation claim, as reported by WXII 12 News and Yahoo News.
Pendergrass was only 29 years old when COVID-19 took her life December 8, 2020. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked as a CNA at The GrayBrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Randolph County, repeatedly putting the well-being of others before her own. Her family believes she contracted COVID-19 at GrayBrier, as per WXII 12 News, alleging that GrayBrier failed to (a) properly manage residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 and (b) thoroughly clean the facility.
According to Yahoo News, GrayBrier asked Pendergrass to come in for a 12-hour shift, even after management was aware she had tested positive for COVID-19. Attorney King’s investigations into the Pendergrass family’s case have uncovered GrayBrier’s pattern of failures to protect both its residents and its staff in the time leading up to the 29-year-old CNA’s death: Three COVID-19 cases on November 19 had multiplied to 95 by November 28.
“GrayBrier routinely requested that employees continue working after testing positive for COVID-19,” Attorney King told Yahoo News. “Industry protocols dictate that COVID-19 positive staff may continue working, but only with COVID-19 positive patients. GrayBrier failed to properly segregate COVID-19 positive patients and permitted positive staff to continue working with non COVID-19 patients.”
To add insult to injury, GrayBrier denied the workers’ comp claim Pendergrass’ mother filed on her late daughter’s behalf. The facility claimed it was not responsible for the fact that Pendergrass contracted COVID-19, even if it happened while she was working in its facility.
“Her mom is devastated,” Attorney King explained to Yahoo News. “She does feel like GrayBrier engaged in some gross negligence, if not outright wrongdoing.”
The fact is, GrayBrier was the breeding ground of two COVID-19 outbreaks during the pandemic. Pendergrass was one of the persons infected during the first outbreak, taking place from November 19, 2020 to February 2, 2021. This outbreak resulted in 147 positive COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths, per Randolph County public health director Tara Aker.
During discovery, Attorney King found that regulators from the United States Department of Health and Human Services had flagged numerous deficiencies at GrayBrier in December 2020. These deficiencies included allowing multiple residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 to share rooms with uninfected residents, a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and staff shortages that resulted in the facility’s inability to deep clean rooms.
“It’s extremely sad and what really bothered me with this case was the nursing home’s failure to follow appropriate guidelines,” Attorney King told WXII 12 News.
Attorney King is in the process of appealing the Pendergrass family’s denied workers’ comp claim. If successful, the Pendergrass family would be entitled to collect death benefits in the form of two-thirds of Tara’s salary for 500 weeks. A hearing with the North Carolina Industrial Commission is on the horizon.
“We had an unfortunate pandemic that continues to go on and to move forward to claim lives,” Attorney King said in conversation with WXII 12 News. “The individuals that are working in these facilities every day and they’re putting safety, health, and in my client's case her life, at risk. The facilities that are benefiting from this high-risk work should be held responsible.”
About Lanier Law Group, P.A.
If you or someone you love contracted COVID-19 due to another’s negligence, our North Carolina attorneys at Lanier Law Group, P.A. will advocate for you. To date, we have successfully recovered millions of dollars for our clients in lawful compensation. Schedule your free consultation with a qualified attorney today—call (855) 757-4204 or fill out and submit an online contact form.