WHEELING – An assisted living center is suing one of its employees for allegedly spreading rumors that an older man residing at the facility raped a woman.
Weirton Health Partners filed a federal lawsuit April 14 against Gabrielle Yates.
Weirton says it lost clients after Yates began to call families of residents living at Wyngate Senior Living Community and told them a resident had raped another resident.
But Weirton contends the claims are not true.
Rumors began flying after Wyngate staff members discovered the existence of a romantic relationship between two elderly residents in June, according to the complaint.
Shortly after the discovery, Wyngate's Wellness Manager Tammy Provenzano called the daughter of the elderly female resident to inform her of the relationship, the complaint says.
"The elderly female resident's daughter indicated that she was happy that her mother had found someone whom she liked and gave her consent to permit the relationship to continue," the suit states.
When a resident assistant discovered the two elderly residents together again on Oct. 29, she reported the conduct to the nurse on duty, who separated the elderly residents and returned the female resident to her room, the complaint says.
Directly after the incident, the elderly female was asked whether she was forced to engage in any inappropriate contact with the male resident, to which she replied she was not, according to court documents.
The nurse contacted Wyngate's administrator and wellness manager to inform them of the residents' conduct. Eventually, the ombudsman and the West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification were also contacted, Weirton claims.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 29, Yates contacted the elderly female resident's daughter and told her that her mother was being repeatedly raped, according to the complaint. Yates continued to say that the Wyngate administration was doing nothing about the situation.
Yates repeated her allegations to employees, to families of residents living at the center and to members of the community, the suit states.
Yates's alleged rumors spread to the police department, and on Nov. 1, police showed up at Wyngate to investigate, court records indicate. But after a search, police did not press charges against the elderly man.
In November, OHFLAC also visited the center to conduct an investigation, but found insufficient evidence of sexual assault, the complaint says.
Still, the elderly woman was pulled out of the center on Nov. 1 by her daughter because of Yates's allegations, Weirton claims.
"By reason of the publication and utterance of the aforementioned defamatory statements, Plaintiff has been injured in its good name and reputation, and has been brought into disgrace and disrepute among members of the public," the suit states. "Plaintiff, as an assisted living facility, relies on his reputation and good standing in the community in order to successfully pursue its business and to secure residents."
Yates is guilty of defamation, tortious interference with a contractual relationship, casting Wyngate in a false light, intentional interference with perspective business relationships and breach of contract, according to the complaint.
In the six-count suit, Weirton is seeking a judgment in excess of $375,000 and unspecified punitive damages, plus costs.
Martin J. Saunders and Craig W. Snethon of Jackson Lewis in Pittsburgh will be representing her.
U.S. District Court case number: 5:09-CV-40