‘Scalding’ bath water caused disabled man’s death, lawsuit alleges

Bradley Downing was well-known in his Gwinnett community, his family’s attorney said.

Bradley Downing was well-known in his Gwinnett community, his family’s attorney said.

Though he was physically disabled, family members say Bradley Downing had a good life. The 41-year-old had graduated from North Gwinnett High School, competed in the Special Olympics and was relatively well-known.

That was all taken away from him when an at-home caretaker gave him a bath with scalding hot water last year, later resulting in his death, a lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit, filed last week in DeKalb County State Court, says the Dunwoody-based company Complete Care at Home was negligent and caused the wrongful death of Downing.

“The case is really about … improper training and supervision of the home health care professional,” attorney Lloyd Bell, representing Downing’s family, said in an interview. “This never should’ve happened.”

Bill Kaplan, the business manager for Complete Care, declined to comment on the case due to federal medical privacy laws. Complete Care is licensed in 15 metro Atlanta counties, according to the company’s website.

Downing, who suffered a brain injury as a young child, was developmentally stunted and was mostly non-verbal, Bell said. A Complete Care employee, who was not named in the lawsuit, was bathing him at his family’s Gwinnett home when she set the water temperature to “scalding,” the suit alleges.

“She didn’t test the water temperature before starting to rinse him off,” Bell said. “Bradley screams at the top of his lungs … He was severely burned across his upper torso.”


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His mother rushed into the bathroom, and the nursing assistant told her what had happened, Bell said.

Downing was rushed to the Grady Memorial Hospital, where he spent two and a half months in the burn unit. His body swelled, he developed pneumonia and he was eventually released into hospice care, where he died a short time later in May 2018, Bell said.

The lawsuit asks for damages for the full value of Downing’s life, and compensations for medical and funeral costs.

Downing’s mother Mary Anne Downing, who primarily cared for him, has held up well over the last 10 months given the circumstances, Bell said.

“Bradley was sort of her life,” he said. “She’s very disappointed with the way the company has responded to the incident. … In her view they have not taken this as seriously as they need to.”

Mary Anne Downing hopes this case raises awareness for the struggles faced by people with disabilities, Bell said.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of cases where vulnerable people, particularly children and adults with disabilities, have experienced injuries at the hand of caregivers,” he said. Bell pointed out that in this case, he does not believe the nurse did anything to intentionally or maliciously hurt Downing.

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