SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — A metro Atlanta family won a major court battle against a senior living facility after their mother died in its care back in 2018. Betty Perloe died after being repeatedly bitten and stung by fire ants that infiltrated the Somerby located in Sandy Springs.
"She was always involved in something, she cared for everyone in our family," said Ross Perloe as he talked about his deceased mother.
He said she was a nurse for decades, serving patients in hospitals and homes in different states. But there came a time when she needed full-time care herself.
"That’s what breaks me up because we went to the best place," Ross said tearfully.
Even though relatives wanted Betty to live with them, her preference was to live in a facility where she could make new friends. Staff and residents said the 92-year-old was known for being a socialite.
"She was just a really special person who got along well with everyone at the facility and made lots and lots of friends," said Xavier Carter, one of the family's attorneys.
But her time there ended tragically after an infestation of fire ants.
Most of the pictures are too graphic to show. In the ones we can show, you can see the countless itchy puss-filled bumps that covered her body.
Photos | Woman bitten by fire ants at senior living facility
"She then suffered through a week or so of intense pain where she was noted to be moaning and scratching," said Carter.
Betty died days later.
"She lived a great life but that’s not the way she should have gone," her son said.
Lindsay Forlines, the other family attorney said ants are especially an issues for the elderly.
"While some of us in our younger years could withstand a number of fire ant stings and be OK, for the elderly that is often not the case," Forlines said.
Although the family's attorneys said the facility did have pest control, there were many issues that were not taken care of as outlined in its lawsuit.
"They just had too many reports that weren’t being followed up on," said Forlines.
The Perloe family sued the facility and won a multi-million dollar settlement.
"We hope it means that facilities will take these things and incidents seriously," Forlines said.
The Perloe family hopes to work with legislators to bring more oversight to elderly care facilities in the state.
11Alive reached out to the facility but have not heard back yet.