Agency Faces $50 Million Lawsuit Over Absent Home Care Aide

A Virginia-based home health care agency is being sued for $50 million after a client with severe disabilities died in a mobile home fire last year, local media report.

Hand ’n Heart was allegedly hired by the victim, 35-year-old Josh Smith, to provide 24/7 care, and is being sued by his family.

“The lawsuit filed in Norfolk Circuit Court claims the night nurse had a family emergency and called to say she wouldn’t be there the night of the fire,” reports “The suit claims the agency then failed to send a fill-in nurse and refused to let the nurse already there stay to work a double shift.”

Smith’s mobile home was destroyed in a fire Oct. 23 of last year, media report. Smith, along with roommate Carl Rich, died as a result of the fire. Both men were disabled and would not have been able to get out of the home without assistance, Smith’s family members said.

“It’s absolutely callous on the part of the company,” Attorney Eric Washburn, who filed the family’s lawsuit, told “These companies and employees can’t just take a paycheck and push the individual to the side. They’ve got to be held accountable for their negligent acts.”

Hand ’n Heart has three offices in Virginia in Richmond, Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. The company has provided home care services for more than 15 years, according to its website.

“We replace our workers if one is not able to work because of accident or illness, or requested day off,” the company said on its website.

HNH Virginia Inc., the company named in the lawsuit, told HHCN it would “vigorously defend this claim” but is otherwise unable to comment on pending litigation.

Read local coverage of the lawsuit here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell