4 families file lawsuits against assisted living facility over COVID-19 deaths

Four families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 have filed lawsuits against the parent company that operates the Arbor Terrace Assisted Living facility.

"Everybody knew this thing was coming. The Arbor Terrace owners and administrators, they had a duty to protect these most helpless of the population, " Attorney Roderick Edmond said when he opened up a zoom news conference Thursday.

The families of Ernestine Mann, Dorothy McGirt, Eddie and Blanche Johnson and Catherine Hendrix alleged it was the senior facility's gross negligence that led to the five deaths. In all, according to the Fulton County Health Department, 16 people have died since the deadly coronavirus hit Georgia. 

One of the primary issues in the lawsuit is that the staff did not use critical Personal Protective gear. Ernestine Mann's son shared what he observed during a window visit with his mom in March. 

"One of the staff members was entering into the building and I specifically asked her where are your masks and gloves?  She replied by saying, they are in the car, " Mann said he was stunned at the response because he and his family had on lots of protective gear standing on the outside of the facility when he posed the question. 

Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

Lana Perry said she was dropping something off for her aunt, Dorothy McGirt, during the pandemic, after

"I was met at the door to give them what I had brought for my aunt, but the young lady that came to the door, she didn't have on a mask ...she didn't have on gloves," Perry recalled.

Eddie and Blanche Johnson were married for 63 years. Their daughter is in an unimaginable position after losing both parents to COVID-19.  She talked about her parents, realizing something was wrong with them just days before they were hospitalized. 

"They expressed the fact of not feeling well, confusion and constantly questioned, how did this happen? We will always love and surely miss sharing quality time with our parents.  They were the rock of our family,"  Jennifer McWhorter shared during a Zoom News Conference organized by Edmond Lindsay & Atkins law firm.

App users click here for live updates

Know how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Georgia

Cedric Hendrix indicated his mother moved to Arbor Terrace several years after his father passed away.  80-year-old Catherine Hendrix was extremely active and loved playing cards, BINGO and exercising. 

"I never expected anything like this," Hendrix lamented. 

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.

The owners of Arbor Terrace released a statement Thursday which said, " Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the families at Arbor Terrace Cascade. This is an exceptionally difficult time for our state and country and sadly, for our beloved residents and staff at Arbor Terrace Cascade."

Attorney Edmond said three lawsuits were filed Thursday morning and the final lawsuit from the McGirt family will be filed in the coming days. 

RELATED: CoronavirusNOW.com, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.

Live map: Tracking coronavirus in Georgia