Lawsuit: Lake Villa woman died when nursing assistant misread chart

The family of a Lake Villa woman being treated for a rare bacterial infection last year is suing her health care provider, claiming no one tried to resuscitate her the morning she died.

The lawsuit filed in Lake County court Tuesday alleges a nursing assistant from Warren Barr North Shore in Highland Park misread a medical chart for Kimberly Cencula, 52, resulting in staff members failing to resuscitate her after she fell unconscious without a pulse.

Cencula died March 29, 2016, at the facility, authorities said. At the time, health officials said she died of Elizabethkingia anopheles, a rare disease that involves bloodstream infections. Some of the infections were in her respiratory system and joints.

However, attorney Tara Devine of Salvi, Schostok and Pritchard in Waukegan, said Cencula died because the nursing home failed to save her even though the Villa Park woman signed a form requesting she be resuscitated.

"She deserved the right to fight on," Devine said.

The lawsuit seeks in excess of $50,000 for negligence and wrongful death. A court date has not been set, Devine said.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, officials from a public relations firm working for Warren Barr said, "While we cannot comment specifically regarding Kimberly's medical condition due to privacy laws and the lawsuit her family recently filed, we can say that we respectfully disagree with all of the allegations that have been made in the lawsuit."

Cencula "received the highest level of care throughout her stay at Warren Barr North Shore," the statement continues. The statement also disputes claims that nursing staff's handling of Cencula's care caused her death.

"While we do not invite litigation, we do look forward to the opportunity to defend ourselves within the context of the lawsuit the family has elected to file," the statement reads.

In the complaint, Warren Barr is listed as a nursing home. The company's website says the facility is a post acute care center and transitional rehabilitation center.

According to the complaint, Cencula was admitted into Warren Barr on Oct. 4, 2015, for Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and bouts of pneumonia, anxiety and other medical disorders.

She was scheduled to be in the facility for three weeks for rehabilitation, family members said. However, family members said three weeks turned into six months because of numerous issues in the facility.

Among the issues, the lawsuit reads, is Cencula fell down and broke a hip after she was left unattended. The lawsuit states staff were aware Cencula was a risk to fall.

"She was supposed to be there for a two-to-three week stay, and she never came home," her husband, Arthur Cencula said. "It was just a nightmare."

On March 29, a Warren Barr employee entered Kimberly Cencula's room at 4:18 a.m. and found her lifeless, the lawsuit reads. However, a call was not made to a rescue squad until 4:47 a.m., 29 minutes after she was found, the lawsuit states.

During that conversation, attorneys claim, emergency dispatch was advised of a death of a patient who did not wish to be resuscitated.

An employee called emergency dispatch again at 4:58 a.m. and said the resuscitation form was misread and asked that paramedics respond immediately. Resuscitation efforts began at 4:59 a.m., the lawsuit states, until a member of the Highland Park Fire Department pronounced Cencula dead at 5:05 a.m.

Since the death, the Illinois Department of Public Health reviewed Warren Barr procedures and found six violations, and the facility was fined $25,000, Devine said.

"This is just shocking and disturbing," she added.

The lawsuit also names Legacy Healthcare Financial Services and all of its subsidiaries as defendants. Legacy Healthcare is the parent company of Warren Barr North Shore LLC.

Kimberly Cencula was born in McHenry and worked as a model in New York and Hollywood "in her younger years," her obituary from Ringa Funeral Home in Lake Villa read.

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