Third suit filed in fatal veterans home COVID-19 outbreak

A third wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo that has killed 27 residents.

Kona attorney Jeffrey Foster filed the civil suit Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court on behalf of Tracy Bennedsen, Margaret Robinson and Roberta Plancich, sisters of 73-year-old Stephan Plancich of Ka‘u, who died Sept. 17 of a COVID-19 infection received at the facility.

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Defendants in the case include Avalon Health Care Group and several of its subsidiaries; Tina Irwin, Avalon’s regional vice president for Hawaii; and governmental “Doe” entities.

According to the lawsuit, Plancich was a decorated U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War whose citations include the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, for “his heroic rescue of persons from a burning ship,” and the Bronze Star.

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Allegations in the suit include breach of duty of care by Avalon due to lax infection protocols at the veterans home.

Civil complaints also have been filed in the coronavirus deaths of Chris Drayer and Lawrence Akana, both 70-year-old U.S. Army Vietnam War veterans who died of COVID-19 because of the Hilo veterans home outbreak.

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