The family of a Bella Vista woman who went missing and was later found dead has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the assisted living facility she wandered away from last year.
Attorneys Sean Keith of Rogers and Tom Wagstaff of Overland Park, Kan., filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of the estate of Barbara Doyle against The Brookfield at Highland Crossing and Brookfield Assisted Living LLC.
Doyle, who was 74 years old, wandered off Aug. 12, 2021, from Brookfield at 3 Highland Crossing Drive in Bella Vista. Her body was found nearly two weeks later about a quarter-mile from Brookfield, in the woods off Forest Hills Boulevard near the Presbyterian Church, during a search by volunteer members of the Benton County Search and Rescue team.
The complaint stated Doyle had been admitted to the facility for three days while her husband attended two of their granddaughters' first communion in Ohio.
The lawsuit claims Doyle, who had dementia and Alzheimer's, was left unattended within three hours of her admission and left the facility by opening an exit door, triggering an alarm. An employee heard the alarm and observed Doyle leaving the facility by herself, but did not confirm Doyle was a resident, according to the complaint.
The employee locked the door after Doyle walked out and did not notify staff of the situation, the complaint states.
Law enforcement or emergency services were notified at 4:45 p.m. Aug. 12; her body was found 13 days later. The medical examiner's report listed her death as a result of environmental heat stress, according to the complaint.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services' division of provider services and quality assurance investigated and found the facility was out of compliance in 21 ways, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims Brookfield was negligent by:
• failing to implement measures to prevent Doyle from wandering off;
• failing to provide adequate policies and procedures to address Doyle's care needs;
• failing to supervise their employees;
• failing to comply with and follow the state regulations governing facilities such as Brookfield, and
• not providing a safe environment for Doyle.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages. The case is assigned to Benton County Circuit Judge Christine Horwart.