HOLYOKE (CBS) — The family of a veteran who died of coronavirus at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home has filed a $176 million class action lawsuit against those who were in charge of the facility.
The suit names former Supt. Bennett Walsh, former Veterans Affairs Sec. Francisco Urena and three top medical staff. It cites a report that found the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home made “substantial errors” in its preparation and response to the outbreak, which led to one of the worst long-time care facility outbreaks in the country.
At least 76 residents died from the virus, and 84 others were infected.
“This was a tragedy that never should have happened,” said attorney Thomas Lesser, who represents the veteran’s family. “The deaths occurred primarily as a result of the actions of five defendants, the people primarily responsible for their care. The people primarily responsible for making sure that they were safe.”
Gov. Charlie Baker said at a news conference Friday that he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but “what happened out there was a terrible tragedy.”
“Having now talked to many of the families myself, personally, over the course of many hours, I am more than aware of the pain, and the sadness, and the sense of loss that they feel,” he said.
Walsh has been on paid administrative leave since March. The state is taking steps to remove him permanently. Urena resigned last month.
This is the first civil lawsuit. There are still three ongoing federal and state investigations into what happened at the home.