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Florida Nursing Home Abuse Case Settled – But a Little Late for the Victim’s Family

Sandra Banning’s mother Virginia Thurston was placed in a nursing home after Thurston’s dementia become difficult for her family to cope with. However, inside Jacksonville’s Southwood Nursing Center, Inc, in 2002, Thurston was raped by a fellow nursing home resident, Ivey Edwards, a man with a history of sex crimes.

Banning sued Southwood and was just recently awarded $750,000 in damages. However, Thurston had passed on before she saw justice done. She passed on in 2003. Edwards now lives in a Florida mental institution. He is currently 87 years of age and was deemed unfit to stand trial for the 2002 rape.

The case has raised a number of questions, specifically the steps taken to reduce Florida nursing home abuse. Banning and her lawyers maintain that the abuse that Thurston suffered was entirely preventable, because Edwards showed a number of signs that he posed a danger to other residents of the nursing home. Despite this, no action was taken by the nursing home to prevent the abuse that Thurston suffered.

While at the Southwood home, Edwards threatened his roommate, stabbed a social worker, and hit a staff member. In the 1960s, Edwards stood trial for sexually molesting children and spent a year in jail for the crimes. Edwards also had a history of 59 arrests since 1945. All these indicators, Thurston’s family asserts, should have told staff that Edwards was a threat to residents. Even staff at Southwood were afraid of him, testimony at the Southwood trial revealed.

Banning ahs stated that she will now petition Florida lawmakers to pass some of the same laws that Illinois has in place to prevent such nursing home abuse. Last year, Illinois passed a law that makes it mandatory for the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement to perform background checks on any person who is applying to enter a nursing home. The law also requires that nursing homes post signs telling nursing home residents when a sexual criminal is admitted among them. Although Illinois is currently the only state with such legislation, Banning believes that such a law could have prevented her mother’s abuse. She could have an uphill battle — Florida Sen. Durrell Peadon introduced a bill last year that would have seen mandatory FBI background checks performed on nursing home residents. The bill was not passed.


A Perfect Cause, a watchdog organization, has found that there are over 800 registered sexual offenders living in nursing homes across the country. There have been at least 44 reported cases of residents abusing other residents in nursing homes. If your loved one has suffered abuse in a nursing home, call The Law Offices of Flaxman & Lopez. We can help you understand your legal options and can help you protect your family member. Call 1- 800-535-2962 (1 800 5 FLAXMAN) to arrange for a free, no-obligation consultation.