Former Veterans’ Home employees file class-action lawsuit over COVID-19 outbreak
HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A new lawsuit has been filed following the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Veterans’ Home. This suit claims supervisors did not protect employees as the virus claimed the lives of more than 80 veterans.
“You have to meet these people. Your heart will break as mine did,” said lead attorney Leonard Kesten.
Kesten told Western Mass News what it was like to interview employees, who worked at the Holyoke Veterans’ Home at the time of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 that claimed the lives of more than 80 veterans.
“Your heart will break at what happened to them and it didn’t need to. What happened there was horrible, almost criminal,” Kesten added.
He represents Debra Ragoonanan, an employee who has now filed a class action lawsuit against a number of previous supervisors at the home: Bennet Walsh, David Clinton, Vanessa Lauziere, Vanessa Gosselin, and Celeste Surreira.
You may remember a similar case was filed by employee Kwesi Albordeppey. However, a judge granted a motion to dismiss based on the fact that Albordeppey was never diagnosed with COVID-19, but Kesten said this time will be different.
“We have filed a new complaint on behalf of a plaintiff who did develop COVID as a result of the horrendous conditions of the Soldiers’ Home,” Kesten noted.
They have appealed the first lawsuit and are waiting for their day in court. Kesten said with this new lawsuit, he’s spoken to more than 40 employees who are in the same boat as Ragoonanan.
“We went out and spoke to the employees there, who told us about the horrors they’re still living with watching these poor veterans be mistreated and die and suffer,” Kesten said.
Western Mass News reached out to the Executive Office of Veteran Services about the lawsuit. They said in a statement, “EOVS does not comment on current or pending litigation.”
However, they were able to confirm that all defendants are no longer employees of the home.
Kesten told us this lawsuit seeks financial damages for employees affected by the outbreak.
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