Jacksonville family says it took a week to learn of loved one’s death at rehabilitation center

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville family is seeking answers after their loved one died in a local rehabilitation home.

They told News4JAX they didn’t learn about his death for seven days.

The family of Edward Meyers, 53, said Lanier Rehabilitation Center failed to communicate his passing with immediate family, but the Rehab Center told News4JAX a different story.

Family members said Meyers was found slumped over a vending machine inside the Lanier Rehabilitation Center on July 23.

His cousin, Kimberly Jones, said she went to check on him in person because she hadn’t heard from him in days. When she got to his room, she learned the worst.

″I said, ‘Did you transfer him? Did you move him somewhere? Has he been discharged?’, and she said, ‘Oh no ma’am, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. He’s deceased.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean he’s deceased?’” Jones said.

Jones said she just lost it when she found out her cousin Edward Meyers had passed away seven days before her arrival at his room in the Lanier Rehabilitation Center.

Jones said Meyers’ body had already been transferred to a local funeral home. She was forced to break the news by phone to Meyers’ son and daughter.

“I said, ‘But here’s the thing, he’s been dead a week’, and so his uncle was like, ‘A week? What do you mean a week?’”

She said administrators at the center told them they contacted the two people on Meyers’ emergency contact list named Maddie and Amanda Thomas. She said those contacts were friends of Jones from years ago and not the next of kin. She said Maddie Thomas told Lanier employees she was not a family member.

“She specifically said, ‘I did not give them permission to do anything with Edwards’ body because I told Lanier I was not family and I knew he had a son or a daughter.’”

News4JAX spoke with Thomas independently by phone on Wednesday. She gave News4JAX the statement below.

On July 23rd, I, Maddie Thomas received a phone call from Lanier informing me that Edward Meyers was dead, they asked me what funeral home I wanted him to go to, and I told them I’m not a next of kin. I told them he had a son and daughter, but I didn’t know how to contact them.

Amanda Thomas

Meyers said because of the confusion, the family has been unable to obtain an official death certificate and cause of death, delaying Jones’ funeral service.

A spokesperson at Lanier Rehab explained their side of the story to News4JAX on Wednesday when we went to the center.

Mr. Meyers, upon his admission to Lanier Rehabilitation Center, informed the staff who he wanted as his emergency contact, which were Amanda Thomas and Mattie Thomas. Mr. Meyers was his own responsible party, he was able to make his needs known, he was not deemed incapacitated and therefore, the center staff followed his wishes. Additionally, that is the same emergency contact information the hospital provided to Lanier Rehabilitation Center.

Spokesperson with Lanier Rehabilitation Center

Administrators at Lanier Rehab also said their staff followed the policy.

“The caregivers and staff at Lanier Rehabilitation Center send their condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Meyers,” the center said in a statement.

Jones said she wished they would take the extra step to contact family.

“I’m angry, I’m upset. I’m also curious as to what they are trying to keep from us.”

News4JAX asked Lanier Rehabilitation why it didn’t attempt to find the next of kin after Maddie Thomas told them they weren’t related. We did not get an answer.

The family told News4JAX they are considering taking legal action.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.