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Legal action over NSW nursing home blaze

Family members of the elderly victims who died in a deliberately lit fire at a NSW aged care facility have filed a class action against the nursing home for failing to protect residents.

Quakers Hill Nursing Home nurse Roger Dean was jailed for life over the blaze which killed 14 elderly residents in 2011, with a coroner’s inquest later finding that his employer, Opal Aged Care, did not conduct reference checks before hiring him.

Dean had been previously been investigated for workplace misconduct and had been suspended from a former job because he was drug-affected at work.

At Quakers Hill he was suspected of abusing prescription drugs and taking them from the nursing home and – after learning police were poised to investigate – he set the facility on fire.

Dean used a cigarette lighter to light a fire in two beds and during the ensuing chaos took two drug register books which he later tore up.

He initially appeared on TV talking up his efforts to evacuate residents but was subsequently charged with 11 counts of murder.

Shine Lawyers launched the class action against Opal Aged Care in the NSW Supreme Court on behalf of nine relatives of the victims.

Donna Austin, whose mother Alma Smith died in the blaze, said the nursing home should be held accountable.

“Putting my mum into a nursing home was one of the toughest decisions of my life,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It’s now a decision I live to regret every single day.

“These people had a duty of care to protect my mother. They are responsible for the grief we now carry every day of our lives.”

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