Family sues care center, claims negligence led to loved one's death during Harvey

Attorney: ‘He would have lived had he not been put on that bus'

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas – A local family is suing the Friendswood Care Center and an administrator of the facility after they said their loved one, 82-year-old Ronald Zaring, died because of the center's negligent decisions.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Monday with the 56th District Court.

A lawsuit and a lesson

The defendants in the lawsuit were listed as HSMTX/Friendswood LLC, also known as Friendswood Health Care Center, and Roland Gonzalez, whom Zaring's attorneys said was an administrator with the FHCC.

"They want this to never happen again. They want this industry to learn from what happened," attorney Russell Briggs, who represents the Zaring family, said.

Zaring was getting care at FHCC when Hurricane Harvey hit.

"Rather than having a good evacuation plan in place, they stayed there. And they stayed there to the extent that there was water rising up to the level of wheelchairs. There was obviously no working bathroom facilities," Briggs said.

What attorneys say went wrong

"There was no evacuation plan, but if there was, it sure wasn't acted out," Briggs said.

The lawsuit claims that leaders of FHCC decided to shelter in place instead of evacuating. Briggs said that was a mistake.

"He had no signs of infection prior to this happening," Briggs said. "They were sitting in water and feces as a result for days."

Briggs said the infection, which turned into sepsis, started due to the conditions during the stay at the flooded facility. The FHCC was eventually evacuated by citizens who happened to knock on the door, according to the lawsuit. Volunteers were hoping to get the residents at FHCC to Friendswood High School, where there was a shelter. According to the lawsuit, Zaring was loaded onto the wrong vehicle and taken to the wrong location and was eventually taken to Friendswood High School hours later. That is when Briggs said a doctor there declared that Zaring needed to be taken to an ambulance. Instead, Briggs said, Zaring was taken elsewhere.

"Unfortunately, they put him on a bus that was going to a sister facility in Huntsville. He was acutely ill on the bus. The administrator was on the bus but did not wish to stop the bus, and he passed away as a result," Briggs said.

KPRC was unsuccessful in contacting the facility by deadline.

The aftermath

"Mr. Zaring always had a twinkle in his eye. He was always someone that is positive, upbeat and saw the best in people," Briggs said.

The family hopes that this situation doesn't happen to anyone else.

The FHCC building on Heritage Drive in Friendswood is fenced off and up for sale. The family said they want accountability.

"He would have lived had he not been put on that bus," Briggs said.

Briggs said they are prepared to bring experts to testify.