Puyallup: News

Wrongful death lawsuit against state representative and her company settles out of court

State Representative Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup, and her assisted living business were sued amid allegations of hiring an unqualified employee.
State Representative Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup, and her assisted living business were sued amid allegations of hiring an unqualified employee.

A wrongful death case brought against a Washington state representative and her senior care business has settled out of court.

State Rep. Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup, and her business, Visiting Angels, were sued in the Pierce County Superior Court in Dec. 2018 by a client’s widow, Jeanette Longchamps, for negligence, wrongful death, violating the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Act and related allegations.

Other defendants include the incorporated parent company, Home Care Companions, Chambers’ husband, Jeff Chambers, former employee Katherine Jenkins and a registered agent with Home Care Companions, Alice Smith.

Longchamps said the business hired an employee who was not registered to provide health care in Washington, and that hire contributed to her 84-year-old husband’s Armand Longchamp’s death on June 8, 2016.

The same employee was found guilty in 2017 and went to jail for stealing money from the Longchamps’ bank account.

Jeff Chambers said he and his wife work in the assisted living business, because they care about the community.

“What they accused us of is not who we are,” he said. “I do the very best to hire someone I would send to my mother.”

Visiting Angels provides senior home care, offering hourly, overnight or 24-hour elderly care. Services include companionship, hygiene assistance, meal preparation and assistance running errands. Longchamps contended the caretakers do not undergo the thorough background checks, reference checks and previous employment verification as advertised on the company site.

The plaintiffs submitted to the court that an investigation determined that the company’s background check had errors. On more than one occasion, Visiting Angels filed paperwork with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services that did not include fingerprints.

Chamber’s response to the initial complaint argued that Longchamps’ “alleged injuries may have been caused by some instrumentality or entity not within defendants’ control.”

Cardiopulmonary arrest, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes were listed on Armand Longchamp’s death certificate.

“This whole thing was a very unfortunate experience,” Jeff Chambers said. “His death is sad and unfortunate, but wasn’t unexpected.”

The parties signed a non-disclosure agreement, so the settlement amount was not made public.

The former employee, Katherine Jenkins, was found guilty on two theft charges in a previous case three years ago. The police investigation concluded she had stolen more than $4,500 from the Jeanette and Armand Longchamps, court documents show.

She pleaded guilty to first-degree identity theft and second-degree theft. Jenkins served six months in jail and six months of home confinement.

At the time of her hiring, Jenkins did not have any health care registration in Washington and had been found guilty of attempted possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court documents.

Jenkins wrote a letter filed with the court in the civil case, stating that she was a certified nursing assistant in Connecticut and was trying to get things switched over to Washington. She also said the criminal history did not include felonies.

Chambers represents the 25th District, which includes Puyallup, South Hill, Midland, Fife and part of Parkland. Her company runs the Tacoma and Oregon branches of Visiting Angels, offering elderly care services.

She was first elected in 2018. Chambers has sponsored 13 bills, including legislation requiring reporting child abuse and neglect, changing the election and authority of regional transit boards, and prohibiting safe injection sites. Chambers sits on the House Rules, Transportation and the Health Care and Wellness committees.

Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.