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COVID Victim from New Jersey’s Bayshore Health Care Center Buried Without Family’s Knowledge

When Thomas E. Comer, an 88-year-old resident of Bayshore Health Care Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, died of COVID-19 on April 13, 2020 no one bothered to tell his family. Instead, left in the dark about his condition, the family ultimately found out that not only was he dead, but also that he had been buried without their knowledge, according to an article published by the New York Post published on June 8, 2020.

When Thomas E. Comer’s granddaughter called Bayshore Health Care Center to inquire about his condition, she was told that he had died, but that she was not authorized to receive further details. Desperate for information and frustrated after weeks of uncertainty, she Googled his name and found that his body had been sent to Laurel Funeral Home in West Keansburg, New Jersey. When the funeral home tried to contact Thomas E. Comer’s son, they found that they could not reach him—because Bayshore Health Care Center had given them an outdated phone number, even though Thomas E. Comer’s son had routinely given the facility updated contact information. As a result, instead of being cremated, as per his wishes, Thomas E. Comer was buried at Bay View Cemetery in Leonardo, New Jersey.

How did this happen? Thomas E. Comer was under state guardianship because of financial concerns.  According to its website, the New Jersey Office of the Public Guardian for the Elderly “acts as surrogate decision maker for residents sixty (60) years of age and over who have been deemed incapacitated by the Superior Court of New Jersey.” The agency goes on to say, “Good faith and honesty – the fundamentals of fiduciary responsibility – guide as us we carry out our duties.” In this case, however, the Office of the Public Guardian neglected its duties, as did Bayshore Health Care Center. The duty of notifying family members in the event of a charge’s death falls to the Office of the Public Guardian. In this case, however, no one from the Office of the Public Guardian notified the family of Thomas E. Comer when the elderly man died. Hackensack Meridian Health, the parent company of Bayshore Health Care Center, maintains that they did nothing wrong. Thomas E. Comer’s family, however, is outraged that no one at the facility could spare “five minutes” to let them know what was going on.

As of June 7, 2020, 21 residents of the Bayshore Health Care Center have died of COVID-19, and another 119 have tested positive for the virus, according to an article published by NJ.com on June 6, 2020. As COVID-19 ravages nursing homes nationwide, many nursing homes have descended into chaos, neglecting their most fundamental duties to residents and their families. The loved ones of elderly and disabled residents have been left in the dark. If you’ve experienced a similar situation and would like to speak with an attorney, don’t hesitate to call (877) 238-4175 or email info@fkesq.com for your free case consultation.