Family sues Detroit nursing home after man found dead in dumpster

Lawsuit against St. Francis Nursing Center seeks $1 million

DETROIT – When construction workers found a body in a dumpster last week near St. Francis Nursing Center in Detroit there were many questions to be answered.

Namely, how did the man get there and who was responsible for him? While police try to find the answers to such questions, the man's family is placing blame. They have filed a lawsuit against the nursing home.

"It was like a nightmare," said Carlas Parker.

It was Parker's 73-year-old uncle, Ralph Ford, who was found in that dumpster. Ford's family knows he was at St. Francis' on Jan. 17. He was found dead the next day. Still, the nursing home didn't report him as a missing person until after his body was found in the dumpster.

Parker couldn't believe it. After all, she and her family chose St. Francis Nursing Center because, according to its own website, it could provide a safe and secure area for residents who have a tendency to wander.

"He was supposed to be safe and secure in his bed, not freezing in a dumpster," said Parker.

Parker said her uncle was a Motown-like singer in his day. He also worked for Conrail. Later in his life he suffered from cognitive and physical breakdowns.

Today, Parker's attorney, Mark Bernstein, filed a wrongful death suit against St. Francis which seeks at least $1 million.

"The powerful symbolic message of being found in a dumpster ... that's where we throw things that are trash," said Bernstein. "That's not how we treat other human beings."

Bernstein said there has been a pattern of problems at St. Francis. A search through the state's regulatory agency archive shows 27 complaints have been filed about the nursing home over the past two years. Those complaints include one which alleges a staffer made sexual advances and one which alleges a failure to investigate missing money.

However, there is nothing like what happened to Ford.

"The main thing that hurts me and my mother is we truly, truly thought he was going to be safe there. We really did," said Parker.

The nursing home is making no comment on the lawsuit. It's not clear how long Ford was outside the center. The front entrance to the place has a gate and two doors including one that you must buzz to be allowed entry. There is also a table with a security guard and a nurse's station.

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