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LIVE OAK — An outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in residents at the facility may lead to Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center being sued.

Matt Morgan and Alexander Clem with Morgan & Morgan announced Thursday morning plans to file lawsuits against both Suwannee Health and an Ormond Beach long-term care facility, the Coquina Center, for gross negligence and reckless disregard for the safety of the residents.

The lawyers said their firm is continuing to investigate claims of negligence at Suwannee Health, stating that it came from top down.

The lawsuits won’t be filed for at least 2 1/2 months as the firm must first file a notice of intent, which then provides at least 75 days prior to the lawsuit being filed.

Clem said they have already talked with family members of residents at Suwannee Health as well as former employees during the pre-suit screening period.

“The family members don’t really know what happened,” Clem said. “They are relying on us to get answers.”

According to the Florida Department of Health, 18 residents of Suwannee Health have died after testing positive for COVID-19. There is only one long-term care facility with more COVID-related deaths in the state — Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation & Nursing Services with 23 — according to health department data. Braden River Rehabilitation Center and Highlands Lake Center also have had 18 deaths in coronavirus-related cases. The Coquina Center has had 16 deaths.

The latest state data shows there were still 30 positive patients in the facility Tuesday afternoon along with four staff members.

Suwannee Health did not respond to a request for comment.

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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