BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Jefferson County and its former nursing home claiming staff failed to provide the treatment and care that could have prevented a patient’s death in 2009.

The suit, filed Friday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages stemming from the Oct. 4, 2009, death of Mary Elizabeth Yancey, 78, who had been at the center since 2005.

It names as defendants the Jefferson County Commission, dba Jefferson Rehabilitation and Health Center; Continuity Health Care Inc., the Montgomery contractor providing health care at the home; and several medical employees.

Yancey’s daughters, Bernice Averhart and Geraldine Reddick, claim in the suit that nursing home staff failed to detect a severe abdominal infection that ruptured when Yancey fell at the facility.

She was not sent to a hospital for three days, even though signs of the infection were apparent and Yancey was complaining of abdominal pain, the lawsuit contends. She remained hospitalized until she died a month later of septic shock, the suit said.

The defendants “violated their duty to provide appropriate nursing care and services and these violations caused the death of Ms. Yancey,” the suit said.

Jeff Sewell, the Jefferson County Attorney, declined comment, saying he had not seen the suit. Officials with Continuity did not return a phone message left Monday seeking comment.

The county nursing home, which opened in 1965, has been at the center of a political storm amid calls to close the chronically underutilized facility that required annual taxpayer subsidies to break even financially.

The home posted a $28 million deficit over the 2003-2008 budget years, and has continued to lose more than $4 million per year, county officials have said.

A majority of commissioners voted Sept. 13 to sell state licenses for 238 beds from the center to a Tuscaloosa-based firm for $8.3 million, effectively getting the county out of the nursing home business.

The lawyers who filed the wrongful death suit, Perry Shuttlesworth Jr. and Alan Lasseter, wrote that efforts to make the nursing home profitable led officials to take on patients the facility was not able to properly treat and monitor.

“The defendants .¤.¤. actively sought admission of patients with similar medical and nursing needs to Ms. Yancey in order to fill empty beds and to increase their rate of occupancy and overall revenues,” the suit said.

Yancey had other health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, cognitive loss, hypertension and abdominal problems due to prior hernia surgery, the suit said.

Deterioration of a mesh used in Yancey’s earlier hernia surgery caused the infection that led to her death, the suit contends.

Nursing home officials also failed to turn over complete records of Yancey’s medical care before her death, including information from the month leading to her fall, the suit said.

Pending before Circuit Judge Robert Vance, the suit seeks a jury trial. The defendants have 30 days to respond after they receive the complaint.