Nursing home and theater sued Damages sought after woman, 93, fell


A 93-year-old woman has filed a civil suit against the operators of a nursing home for taking her to a Laurel dinner theater, where she fell and broke her hip.

Agnes Sunderland, who lives at Harmony Hall in Columbia, also is seeking damages against the operators of the closed Petrucci's Dinner Theatre, where she fell off a platform and broke her right hip in February 1991.

Ms. Sunderland is seeking $350,000 in damages against Harmony Hall and the dinner theater operators, contending that they were negligent for permitting the incident to happen, according to the lawsuit she filed in Howard Circuit Court on Dec. 13.

Before the incident, Ms. Sunderland went to a health club to swim several times a week, said her attorney, Allen Greif of Towson. Now, she must use a walker and no longer goes to the health club.

"She's not as good as she was before," Mr. Greif said.

Ms. Sunderland has lived at Harmony Hall, in the 6300 block of Cedar Lane, for about five years.

Karen Jordan, director of Harmony Hall, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying she has not yet received a copy of the complaint.

Carlo Petrucci, his son Daniel Petrucci and his daughter Gloria Petrucci -- who operate the dinner theater -- could not be reached for comment.

The theater, which operated in the 300 block of Main St., closed in September 1991.

The suit says Ms. Sunderland went to the dinner theater with a

group of Harmony Hall residents for a show and meal on Feb. 20, 1991, as planned by the nursing home's staff.

Ms. Sunderland, then 91, was among 26 people, including three Harmony Hall employees, who went to an afternoon showing of the comedy-musical "Nunsense," Mr. Greif said.

The Harmony Hall staff notified the theater's operators that they were bringing a group of "elderly people" to the establishment, and the operators should have known of the need for extra attention and care to avoid any mishaps, the suit says.

In the theater, the stage is surrounded by numerous tiers, or platforms, where tables are placed for diners, the suit says. Ms. Sunderland was sitting at a table on one of these platforms.

Ms. Sunderland rose from her seat to go to the restrooms and stepped off the side of the platform, falling to the floor, the suit says.

She fractured her right hip and two ribs, among other injuries, in the fall.

The tiered platforms were of such a "dangerous design" that they required precautions be given to patrons, who received no such warnings on the day of the show, the suit says.

The Petruccis also are negligent for failing to place rails around the platforms, provide lighting inside the theater and give warnings or signs about the tiers, the suit says.

Meanwhile, Harmony Hall officials are negligent for failing to inspect the Petrucci premises before taking elderly residents to the show and require lighting for the patrons, the suit says.

The officials also should have warned the elderly patrons about the platforms and instruct them to seek help before leaving their seats, the suit says.

Ms. Sunderland has requested a jury trial for her lawsuit. The case has been assigned to Judge Dennis Sweeney, but no proceedings have been scheduled yet.

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