Family claims San Mateo Atria Park staff served mother 'commercial grade cleaner,' killing her

ByLuz Pena and J.R. Stone via KGO logo
Wednesday, August 31, 2022
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Family claims San Mateo Atria Park staff served mother commercial grade cleaner which ultimately led to her death.

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- An investigation is underway at a San Mateo senior living facility where one person died after drinking a toxic chemical.

Three patients ingested what officials said was "dishwashing soap" instead of drinking juice at the Atria Park Senior living facility.

PREVIOUS STORY: 93-year-old woman dead after seniors served dishwashing liquid at San Mateo senior living facility

The 93-year-old woman who died has been identified by family as Trudy Maxwell. She was a mother of nine, had 20 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Maxwell's family believes she was given "Ultra Klene" which is described as a "high-alkaline formula designed to remove tough grease, starch and protein food soils."

"We would like to clarify that it was not regular dishwasher detergent that was given but a highly concentrated commercial grade cleaner," said Maxwell's daughter Melanie.

People familiar with the case believe the chemical was confused with cranberry juice.

In a statement, Atria Senior Living said: "We can confirm three of our residents were recently transported to the hospital after mistakenly being served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice."

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Kathryn Stebner and her law practice Stebner Gertler Guadagni and Kawamoto has filed about 10 lawsuits against Atria Senior Living. Two of them were for elder abuse at the San Mateo facility where Maxwell was given a toxic chemical. We're told those two were settled out of court.

"We've had cases for wounds. Severe bed sores against them. We've had cases where people have fallen multiple times in their room because of low staffing," said Stebner.

Stebner is not representing the Maxwell family but believes this case has similarities to some of her past ones.

"Either short-staffed and or poor training. Because if there is only one person there and they are too busy running around too much they do things like this," said Stebner. "This person was not obviously trained because it's such an obvious thing."

Elder abuse lawyer Niall McCarthy agrees and asks, "What were the safety protocols? Who was it that was pouring the beverages? What were the requirements? Where were they supposed to get that beverage from?"

"It's absolutely inconceivable that a dishwashing liquid ends up in a container that's given to a patient. So there was a complete failure somewhere," said McCarthy.

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San Mateo Police confirmed Maxwell and two other elderly residents were given the toxic chemical on Sunday evening but did not confirm if this took place during dinner.

"Upon getting that phone call we initiated a death investigation after we were able to see what was going on and learned that two additional parties were also hospitalized," said San Mateo Police Public Information Officer Alison Gilmore. "More than three people have been interviewed."

The Maxwell family confirmed their mother had dementia and lived at the Atria Park Senior Living Facility in San Mateo since October of 2020.

ABC7 News contacted Atria to inquire about the toxic liquid and the health status of the two other residents.

Here was their response:

"Thank you for reaching out to us. At this time, we do not have further comment to share. And out of respect for our residents' privacy, we cannot provide further details."

The facility has not confirmed if the detergent in our story was in fact the one given to these residents.