Missouri Nursing Home Verdict

Missouri Lawyers’ Weekly reports on a nursing home case involving a respiratory therapist who allegedly caused the death of a 79 year-old resident at Scenic View Nursing in Herculeaneum, Missouri. The respiratory therapist had a suspended license and was charged with second degree involuntary manslaughter in connection to the patient’s death. He entered an Alford plea and was sentenced to four years in jail.

Additionally, the therapist had been previously reprimanded four times for removing residents from oxygen without an order. His last reprimand was six months before the patient’s death. His supervisor said he was a danger to residents and was terminated. It gets better. He also pled guilty to the unlawful sale of Oxycontin to an undercover officer. It gets even better. He told the police officer who arrested him, “I know what this is about. It’s about that old lady. I guess she thought she would live forever.” This came out in the nursing home negligence trial.

If you are a nursing home lawyer, you are thinking one thing: I can’t lose this case. Obviously, I don’t have all of the facts. But apparently, in spite of all of this, the jury did not believe the doctor who said that he did not order the ventilator turned off, even though an eye witness recalls the order. One more dose of incredible: the doctor was the owner of the nursing home. But for whatever reason, perhaps tactical reasons that one cannot gather from a media report of the story, the plaintiff’s nursing home lawyer did not bring a malpractice action against the doctor.

The nursing home’s lawyer, Stephen M. Strum with Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C., in St. Louis, who tried the case with Veronica Armouti, seemed stunned by the outcome. The article said that Strum was surprised that he was able to overcome all of these issues. How often do you hear that? (If I were the Plaintiff’s nursing home lawyer, I would include the article in my motion for new trial, which is exactly the article indicated Leonard Cervantes, the Plaintiff’s lawyer, will seek.)
After the case, the lawyers could not even agree on the last pretrial offer and demand. Mr. Cervantes, the Plaintiff’s lawyer, said his demand was $300,000 and the last offer was $10,000. The defendant’s lawyer claimed the last demand was $1.5 million and the last offer was $30,000.

Although Missouri Lawyers’ Weekly called it a “defense verdict” it appears the jury actually rendered a 12-0 verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $26,401, the amount of the medical expenses in the case.

Obviously, you can never tell just how difficult a case was by reading an article about the trial after it happened. I’ve read article about my trials that did not resemble the trial at all. But you can bet that a lot of nursing home insurance companies are going to be dialing Steve Strum’s number in the years to come.