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In The News

Nursing Home Wrongful Death - $6,000,000 Verdict

Date of Verdict: October 14, 2005

December 15, 2005 (updated September 24, 2020)

JUDGE: Honorable Jennifer Walker Elrod
COURT: 190th Judicial District Court
CAUSE NO: 2003-18381 Harris County Houston, Texas
Date of Verdict: October 14, 2005

Patricia Marie Schieber, Individually and
As Representative of the Estate of Marie Frances Larson, Deceased
vs.
Mariner Post-Acute Network, Inc. n/k/a Mariner Health Care Inc.;
Living Centers of Texas, Inc., d/b/a Edgewater Care Center; Thomas Lane Northington;
Donna Kay Alexander, RN; and Margie Fraser Lindenberg, LVN

Mr. J. Thomas Rhodes, III(lead counsel), Lyons & Rhodes, P.C.
Mr. David Marks, Marks, Balette & Giessel
Mr. Henry Giessel (of counsel) Marks, Balette & Giessel
Mr. Jacques G. Balette, Marks, Balette & Giessel
Mr. Matt Mussalli, Gauntt & Kruppstadt, L.L.P.
Ms. Laura R. Pazin, Lyons & Rhodes, P.C.

Type of Case: Nursing Home – Wrongful Death

SUMMARY: On April 14, 2001, Marie Frances Larson, 77, was found hanged to death in a wheelchair lap restraint at Edgewater Care Center in Kerrville. Individually and on behalf of her mother’s estate, Mrs. Larson’s only child, Patricia Marie Shieber, sued Mariner Post-Acute Network, Inc., now known as Mariner Health Care Inc.; Living Centers of Texas Inc., operating as Edgewater Care Center; Thomas Lane Northington; Donna Kay Alexander, RN; and Margie Fraser Lindenberg, LVN, alleging negligence in that Mrs. Larson was placed in the restraint without consent or physicians’s order and not properly monitored. The Plaintiffs alleged that Mrs. Larson died as a result of positional asphyxia.

Defendants’ Allegations:

Defendants’ Summary: On April 14, 2001, Frances Marie Larson was found suspended from a lap restraint attached to her wheelchair at Edgewater Care Center. Ms. Larson was removed from the belt and wheelchair. The nurses attempted CPR and contacted 911. EMS personnel attempted to revive her, and she was transferred to the hospital for care and treatment. However, Ms. Larson could not be saved.

Plaintiff alleged that Ms. Larson died from positional asphyxia. Defendants contended that Ms. Larson died from a fatal arrhythmia.

Defendants’ Additional Comments: Plaintiffs alleged that the nursing home and its employees attempted to cover up Ms. Larson’s death, and this was vehemently denied by Defendants. Defendants attempted to resuscitate Ms. Larson and contacted 911, and there was no evidence of any attempt to cover up Ms. Larson’s death or the circumstances surrounding her death. Furthermore, there was no indication that the jury was “angered at the Nursing Home’s failure to conduct an adequate investigation… and the Nursing Home employees’ inconsistent stories regarding the events surrounding Mrs. Larson’s death.” In fact, the jury members reported that no one believed Ms. Larson died as a result of the lap belt, and it was demonstrated at trial that a person could be suspended from the lap belt for more than 17 minutes with no injury or death.

Insurance Carrier: AIG


Plaintiff Experts:

  • Robert C. Bux, M.D. – Pathologist – Colorado Springs, CO
  • Suzanne Frederick, MSN, R.N. – Nursing – Waco, TX
  • Steve Miles, M.D. – Geriatrics – Minneapolis, MN
  • Sidney K. Gerber – Licensed Nursing Home Administrator – Bellaire, TX

Defendants Experts:

  • Charles Harvey, M.D. – Forensic Pathology – Galveston, TX
  • Mark Lambert, M.D. – Cardiology – Houston, TX
  • Vladimir Parangao, M.D. – Pathologist – Performed Autopsy – Austin, TX

Demand: $5 million at trial
Offer: $500,000 pretrial: 1.75 million before final arguments
Verdict: Plaintiff Verdict: $6,000,000

Jury Awarded:

$1,000,000 Past loss of Companionship and Society
$2,000,000 PastMental Anguish
$1,000,000 Future Loss of Companionship and Society
$2,000,000 FutureMental Anguish
$6,000,000 Plaintiff’s Total Award

Additional Comments: The jurors were angered at the Nursing Home’s failure to conduct an adequate investigation following the death of Mrs. Larson and the Nursing Home employees’ inconsistent stories regarding the events surrounding Mrs. Larson’s death, which Plaintiffs alleged was an attempt to cover up the true facts. The jurors believed that the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Larson’s death and the Nursing Home’s act and omissions following the death hugely impacted Path Schieber, due to the home’s conduct and the close relationship Ms. Schieber had with her mom. Marie Larson had lived with her daughter, Pat Schieber in her home and under her care for many years. Mrs. Larson was admitted to the Nursing Home temporarily for rehabilitation and was expected to return home with Ms. Schieber within weeks.

Credit

Originally appearing in Texas Reporter

This information is made available by The Mussalli Law Firm for informational purposes only, does not constitute the rendering of legal advice, and is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described above. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and The Mussalli Law Firm. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can ever be guaranteed.