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Nursing home cleared in ant victim's death

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A judge cleared a nursing home of any wrongdoing in the case of an 87-year-old woman who died after being stung more than 1,600 times by fire ants in her bed.

Administrative Law Judge Jeff Clark called the stings "unfortunate and unexplained," but found that Quality Health Care Center did not err in its treatment of Mary Gay. A state agency's sanctions against the home weren't justified, the judge ruled.

Gay died May 19, 33 hours after the ants chewed through a wall of the home, swarmed her bed and stung her.

State regulators faulted the nursing home for not providing proper care for the stings and for failing to follow a doctor's orders to treat the stings. The home was closed temporarily and its owners fined.

The state agency can appeal the judge's March 9 ruling.

Still pending is a civil lawsuit by Gay's family seeking more than $30,000 in damages, charging the nursing home with negligence and causing her death.

Lawyer Don Greiwe, representing Gay's family, said he hopes the agency appeals: "I think the administrative judge is wrong."

Karen Goldsmith, representing the nursing home, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.