Family of elderly woman fatally stung by fire ants wins lawsuit

In 2020, Georgia state lawmakers implemented a number of reforms in response to reports of elder neglect and abuse at facilities across the state, including some of the pricier, private ones. A number of these cases were brought to light in a series in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Now a Gwinnett County jury has weighed in on one of the tragic, and unusual, cases covered by the newspaper. It involves a 92-year-old retired nurse who was stung to death by fire ants in her assisted living facility in Sandy Springs. 

Her family has been awarded $2.5 million. That includes $1 million for the woman’s suffering, $500,000 for wrongful death and another $1 million for punitive damages. The jury also awarded $300,000 for attorney fees and legal expenses.

Ants had been a problem for months but went unresolved

According to the family’s lawsuit, the woman’s personal aid reported to the senior living facility staff that there were ants in her room. However, nothing was done. The suit contended that ants had been a problem at the facility for at least a couple of months. Shortly after the aide reported them, the ants began to land on the woman’s body and sting her multiple times. 

It wasn’t long before she passed away. According to the family’s attorney, “Her last week was one of agonizing pain….” Fire ants can be particularly dangerous for elderly people.

Attack “hastened her death”

The woman had been in hospice care prior to the fire ant attack. However, the attorney said that the attack “hastened her death.” Her son, who is a doctor, noted that his mother had previously been stable despite her health issues and had a good quality of life.

The assisted living facility is now under new ownership. The current owners say they have implemented new standards, protocols and training to help prevent further tragedies like this one.

Regardless of age and health, the staff and management of nursing homes and other senior care facilities owe their residents a safe environment and the care they need. No one should die — or have their death hastened – by conditions in one of these facilities. If a loved one has been harmed or worse by negligence or abuse, you have a right to seek justice and compensation for them and to take steps that can help prevent a similar fate for others.