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GENEVA, Ill. — A local nursing home where a quarter of the residents died from COVID-19 is being sued by the family of a 97-year-old woman who says they want to hold Bria of Geneva accountable.

One of the more distressing allegations in this lawsuit is that the family of Helen Osucha had no idea she was suffering with COVID-19 until the funeral home told them.

Michael Colwell remembers his mother-in-law as a gracious, intelligent, hard-working woman who, after raising two children, went to work at the famous Como Inn in Chicago as a bookkeeper and waitress for 30 years.

“She had a whole collection of customers who loved her,” Colwell said.

About a year ago, the family moved Osucha to Bria of Geneva. They last saw her in March just before the facility was locked down because of coronavirus. Osucha died April 26 at 97 years old.

Colwell said they had no idea she was sick until they got a call saying she died. “The funeral home gave us Helen’s death certificate and on that death certificate it says that she was ill for one week prior to her death,” he said. “And then, it lists COVID as the cause of her death.”

Attorney Peter Flowers has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Kane County Circuit Court accusing Bria of Geneva of not taking reasonable measures to ensure its employees and staff members complied with the COVID-19 preventative directives of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

“They not only didn’t protect the patients in there but they also didn’t protect their own workers,” Flowers said.

A Bria Health Services spokesperson issued a statement in response to the lawsuit:

“COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that puts our elderly residents with underlying health conditions most at risk. Our partnership with departments of public health continued as their guidance and directives continuously evolved and as information about the coronavirus became known. Because testing was not immediately accessible, the high number of asymptomatic carriers among residents and staff created a silent enemy impossible to detect and difficult to defeat. These form the backdrop of why the State of Illinois has granted immunity to healthcare providers for injuries stemming from the diagnoses, transmission and treatment of COVID-19. We remain committed to providing compassionate care to our residents, and as of Monday more than 50 residents and 33 staff have now recovered from the virus or remain asymptomatic after testing positive.”

Bria of Geneva has had some of the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths stemming from an Illinois nursing home. As of May 15, there have been 112 cases and 22 deaths.

“We hope that the legal system, and our government system will help prevent this in the future,” Colwell said.

Flowers expects to file more lawsuits against the nursing home later this week. 

Meanwhile, Bria of Geneva said as of Monday, more than 50 residents and 33 staff have now recovered from COVID-19 or remain asymptomatic after testing positive.

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