Anchorage

Lawsuit filed against Anchorage senior care facility over allegations of sexual abuse and neglect

This story has been updated to include statements from lawyers for Baxter Senior Living.

A lawsuit filed this week in state court accuses a senior care facility in East Anchorage of neglecting a 75-year-old woman’s well-being after she was raped by another resident, then made efforts to cover up the assault. The attack left the woman, who suffers from dementia, badly battered. And according to court documents, delays in getting her medical treatment led to further injuries that kept her in intensive hospital care for 15 days. Lawyers for the facility dispute those allegations.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Joshua Fannon and Myron Angstman on behalf of the elderly woman and her daughter, who has legal guardianship over her mother. They are suing Baxter Senior Living, a large residential and assisted living center that opened in 2019 on the east side of Anchorage. The plaintiffs, according to Angstman, wish to remain anonymous, and are referred to only by initials in the complaint.

“There are indications that this is not an isolated incident,” Angstman said in an interview Friday.

The lawsuit demands compensation for the plaintiffs in an amount that would be determined by a jury at trial, though it’s also seeking to depose employees who anonymously told authorities that they had raised instances of other sexual assaults at the facility only to be threatened with retaliation by superiors.

“We have a certain amount of information, but clearly there’s a bunch more information contained,” Angstman said.

The lawsuit also names Baxter Senior Living’s general manager, Keith Rayl, and assisted living home administrator Emily Marler as defendants. Neither Rayl nor Marler, nor anyone from the facility, responded to multiple messages seeking comment on Friday.

“Baxter Senior Living has been made aware of a lawsuit that has been filed on behalf of a former resident. While we have reviewed the statements by counsel to the press, we have not received or been served with a copy of the lawsuit and therefore cannot comment in detail on its allegations,” wrote Mark Scheer, an attorney for the facility, in a statement sent Saturday. “Baxter disputes the allegations as set forth in the article and trusts that the Alaska legal system will allow all details to come to light as this matter progresses.”

The lawsuit does not involve any criminal charges against the accused assailant. “Those kinds of things are out of our control,” Angstman said. “We only represent the family to try to collect civil damages.”

According to the complaint filed by attorneys, the 75-year-old woman had been staying in Baxter’s memory care wing starting in October of 2020 after breaking her arm, necessitating a higher level of care due to dementia, anxiety, and several other conditions. Prior to entering care, the woman was considered a “vulnerable adult,” not able to meet her own needs without help.

In January, according to the allegations, a man referred to only as “Resident X” with “a history of aggressive and sexualized behaviors towards staff and residents” entered the woman’s room and raped her, battering her so badly in the process that she remained in bed for three days afterwards.

The facility did not arrange a physical exam, did not preserve bedding or clothes for evidence of an assault, or notify the woman’s family, in spite of the fact, according to the complaint, that “some Baxter employees ‘caught’ Resident X with (the woman) in her room at the end of Resident X’s assault.”

According to lawyers, in the wake of the assault, staff members reported to Marler that the resident was extensively bruised, but little was offered in the form of adequate medical care. Lawyers said for the next few days, the woman did not eat or drink, but was brought to the hospital after collapsing in her room.

“Once (the plaintiff) was safely outside of Baxter’s premises and control, she reported to her health care providers that she had been the victim of a rape by another resident at Baxter’s,” according to the complaint.

Lawyers say that as a result of her injuries going untreated for three days before she was brought to the hospital, the woman’s internal bleeding contributed to a kidney infection that put her in the Intensive Care Unit.

The court documents further allege that staff at the Baxter facility attempted to cover up what had happened, telling the daughter and investigating police officers at different points that the elderly woman had been in a relationship with another resident, and there had been an incident of “rough sex.”

“Baxter led the police to believe that since the other resident had dementia, there should be no crime to investigate,” the lawyers write.

The woman’s dementia and status as a vulnerable adult preclude her ability to legally consent to a sexual relationship.

The court filing does not point to widespread sexual abuse by other patients or staff, but instead highlights that issues were repeatedly raised about the same “Resident X,” whose repeated instances of aggression put other vulnerable residents at the facility at risk.

“Baxter and its staff have cooperated with all relevant authorities during the investigative process, and will continue to do so. The safety of its residents is of the highest priority for Baxter and any allegations are thoroughly investigated,” Scheer wrote.

After the assault was reported at the hospital, police and the State of Alaska’s Adult Protective Services investigated and told Baxter to make policy changes, according to the complaint. In the process of investigating, employees raised concerns to authorities.

“This anonymous tipster revealed that every time staff tried to report an incident involving Resident X, staff ‘were met with retaliation from the owners or Emily Marler,’ ” the complaint says. “Ms. Marler specifically told caregivers concerned about Resident X’s interaction with other residents to ‘mind their own business.’”

Angstman did not know whether “Resident X” is still at the facility.

In addition to compensation for damages, the lawsuit seeks to cover attorney’s fees and associated costs.


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