Family of Kathleen Kinkel claim Aspen Creek of Troy negligent resulting in death
By Pat Pratt
The husband of a memory-care patient who died after staff failed to realize she was missing in freezing temperatures has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the parent company of Aspen Creek of Troy.
Kathleen Kinkel, also known by her nickname “Kitty,” was found dead the morning of Jan. 31, in an outside area near her residence of Aspen Creek Assisted Living and Memory Care, located 1924 SrA Bradley R Smith Drive.
Her widower, Thomas Kinkel, in a complaint filed in Madison County Court claims Aspen Creek Management Inc. and Aspen Creek Development LLC violated the state’s Wrongful Death Act, the Survival and Family Expenses Act and the Nursing Home Care Act.
Kinkel’s family also incurred funeral and burial expenses, according to the complaint. While the lawsuit asks for at least $50,000 in damages, a jury would ultimately set the amount if the case is not settled out of court.
Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis R. Ruth has been assigned to oversee the case. Thomas Kinkel is represented by Attorney James Radcliffe of Belleville. As of Thursday, Aspen Creek had not filed a response and no attorney is listed for the company in court records.
In a news release, Troy Police reported Kinkel was found deceased about 8:19 a.m. Jan. 31 near the facility. A subsequent investigation by the Illinois Department of Public Health found numerous missteps by staff, who repeatedly failed to ascertain her whereabouts despite the sounding a door alarm at the facility.
“As a direct and proximate result of one or more of the negligent and/or careless acts or omissions of Aspen and its agents, Kitty suffered injury, suffered a diminished ability to enjoy life and experienced pain and suffering until her death on Jan. 31, 2023,” the complaint reads.
Video surveillance shows Kinkel standing at the door she exited from at 2:10 a.m. on Jan. 31. She walked out the door at 2:14 a.m., which triggered an alarm. Three minutes later, staff members responded to the door, according to the IDPH investigation.
Two staff members looked out the door and the window, stating they did not see any footprints in the snow. Staff told investigators they then checked all the residents’ rooms, but did not go “all the way” inside Kinkel’s, as it appeared from the hallway she was still lying in bed.
Three more hours would pass before staff would make another required end-of-shift count of residents. Again during the 5:30 a.m. count, staff still did not seek to physically locate Kinkel. Day shift staff arrived at 6 a.m. and told investigators that they were informed “everything was ok” and all residents were accounted for.
It was not until 8 a.m. that staff coming on-duty realized Kinkel was missing, informed the duty nurse and initiated a search. During the search, the nurse spotted KInkel in a nearby field about 54 steps away from the door she exited. National Weather Service records show the temperature at 7:25 a.m. Jan. 31 about an hour before Kinkel was found, was 11-degrees.
IDPH later found Aspen Creek committed two Type 1 violations of the Assisted Living and Shared Housing Establishment Code, resulting in a $4,000 fine. The violations are the most serious under the code and are related to harm or death of an individual.
Kathleen Kinkel was a well-known resident of Troy having served 26 years as a real estate agent for Century 21 Harrison Group, according to her obituary.
A hearing in the wrongful death lawsuit had not been set at press time.