On September 25, 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General announced criminal charges against former superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Bennett Walsh, and its former medical director, Dr. David Clinton. The Soldiers’ Home is a fully accredited, long-term care facility for veterans, operated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The charges against Mr. Walsh and Dr. Clinton are the result of the mass outbreak of Covid-19 cases that occurred at the Soldiers’ Home earlier this year, which ultimately led to the death of 76 residents. As a result of the mass outbreak and related veteran deaths, the Facility has been subject to investigation by several governmental offices, including that of the Massachusetts Attorney General, the Governor of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Although long term care facilities have faced civil Covid-19 related lawsuits in various states throughout the country, the charges announced today represent the first time ever that criminal proceedings have been initiated against a facility. The announcement of the charges comes after a Statewide Grand Jury indicted the two men on five (5) counts each of Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Bodily Injury to an Elder or Disabled Person and five (5) counts each of Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment to an Elder or Disabled Person.
According to the Attorney General’s announcement, the prosecution in this case will seek to prove the criminal negligence charges now pending against these former employees by focusing on Mr. Walsh and Dr. Clinton’s March 25, 2020 decision to consolidate ten (10) units of the facility into seven (7), including the consolidation of two (2) dementia units into one (1). This decision ultimately resulted in the intermixing of Covid-19 positive and Covid-19 negative residents, accelerating the spread of the virus throughout The Soldiers’ Home.
Stotler Hayes Group, LLC (“SHG”) will be closely following this case as it progresses. Additionally, SHG will be aggressively monitoring state and federal legislative efforts to provide long term care providers with immunity from Covid-19 civil and criminal litigation. We will also be collaborating with various long-term care associations to promote such legislation. Please reach out to us with any questions you may have regarding:
- the Holyoke case;
- the status of Covid-litigation immunity legislation in your state(s); and/or
- how you can bring your facility into compliance with state and federally mandated safety practices, and implement other Covid-related best practices, to avoid any future liability.
 A copy of Attorney General Maura Healey’s Press Release is available here: https://www.mass.gov/news/ag-healey-announces-criminal-charges-against-superintendent-and-former-medical-director-of.
 Chris Villani, “DOJ To Probe COVID-19 Deaths At Mass. Veterans Home”, April 10, 2020, https://www.law360.com/articles/1262539?scroll=1&related=1.
 Jeanette Forge, “Staffing concerns predated coronavirus outbreak at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” MassLive, May 20, 2020, https://www.masslive.com/coronavirus/2020/05/staffing-concerns-predated-coronavirus-outbreak-at-holyoke-soldiers-home.html.