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San Mateo care home faces wrongful death suit after second resident dies from drinking cleaning fluid

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SAN MATEO – A San Mateo assisted-living facility is facing a wrongful death lawsuit after a second resident died from drinking cleaning fluid that was mistakenly served as juice.

Peter Schroder Jr. was 93 years old when he died Sept. 7, 13 days after he drank the fluid during breakfast at Atria Park of San Mateo, according to the suit. Trudy F. Maxwell, 93, also died after the incident.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 16 by Schroder’s children Susan and Paul Schroder, alleges negligence, elder abuse and wrongful death on the part of the assisted-living facility.

A disruption during breakfast service caused all kitchen workers to leave their posts, according to the suit. A worker set down a container of cleaning fluid, which was then picked up by another worker who brought it to Schroder’s table, believing it was cranberry juice.

The lawsuit alleges a lack of staffing at Atria Park heavily contributed to the deadly mistake.

During Schroder’s one-year stay at the assisted-living facility, “there was not sufficient staff to meet the needs of the residents,” according to the suit. The suit also claims “there were also numerous occasions when there was not enough staff to respond to residents’ custodial care and assistance needs,” including those of Schroder.

Schoder suffered several injuries at Atria Park, including broken bones in his hand, damaged knee ligaments and cuts on his head that required stitches. The suit alleges the injuries occurred because there weren’t enough employees to keep a close watch on him.

“In my opinion the blame needs to be directed toward the corporation, not toward the individuals in this case,” Kathryn A. Stebner, the attorney for the Schroder family, told the Bay Area News Group.

“The people who work at these facilities should not always be the fall guys for things like this that happen,” she continued, “and I’m afraid that everyone’s going to point the finger at the low-paid employee and I think that is the wrong place to point the finger.”

In a statement released shortly after the poisoning, the assisted-living facility said it had suspended the employees who were involved pending the outcome of its own investigation. Atria Park did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

According to the suit, Schroder’s final days were filled with “extreme pain.” His lips, mouth and esophagus erupted with blisters and open wounds, and he was unable to swallow. He also had to be restrained because he needed to use all his energy to breathe.

“In the Schroder case,” Stebner said, “the thing that is most upsetting is that the daughter had to watch her father go through pain knowing that the pain was going to get worse each and every day.”

Check back for updates.

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