A Jackson County jury reached a verdict Friday in a lawsuit against Mill Valley Care Center.
The Bellevue nursing home was found negligent in the death of 84-year-old Jeanette Konrardy during a jury trial that lasted just over a week.
As a result, the nursing home was ordered to pay $800,000 to Konrardy’s family, who filed the lawsuit in 2017, along with an additional $1.37 million in punitive damages for a total of $2.17 million
The family initially sued for $8 million in damages.
Konrardy’s children – Kim Cueno, Michael Nemmers, Kevin Nemmers, John Nemmers, Beth Radil, Brian Nemmers and Terry Nemmers – filed suit against the Bellevue nursing home and its owner and operator, Riverview Development Corp.
Each of the children will receive $100,000 for the “loss of consortium with Jeanette Konrardy,” according to court documents. In addition, the family will receive $150,000 for “pre-death pain and suffering” from Jan. 19-24, 2016, and $50,0000 for “pre-death loss of full mind and body” for the same time period.
The additional $1.37 million in punitive damages will go to the Konrardy estate.
Mill Valley Administrator Jim Harkness emailed a statement to the Bellevue Herald-Leader following the verdict.
“We are surprised and disappointed by today’s decision,” Harkness said. “Mill Valley Care Center recognizes the sudden passing of a resident is difficult and painful for family members. We again express our condolences. However, the plaintiffs’ demand for between $16 million and $40 million from the jury was simply unacceptable to Mill Valley. We will continue to examine the jury’s decision and are pursuing post-trial motions at this time.”
Mill Valley Care Center has 30 days from the time the final order was filed to appeal the judgment.
Konrardy’s family could not be reached prior to the deadline.
The family sued Mill Valley Care Center in Bellevue after their mother fell at the nursing home and then died five days later.
Konrardy lived at Mill Valley from 2012 to early 2016. She fell Jan. 19, 2016, when she was left alone in the bathroom while a staff member reached to get clothes outside the bathroom, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys.
Konrardy suffered traumatic brain injury, vertebrae fractures and facial fractures. Her death certificate lists the immediate cause of death as blunt force trauma.
The plaintiff’s attorney during opening arguments a week ago Thursday said the family was suing for two reasons: The family alleged Mill Valley staff left Konrardy alone in her bathroom where she should not have been left alone, and they allege that Mill Valley refused to take responsibility for leaving Konrardy alone.
In opening arguments the defense and plaintiffs agreed that Konrardy suffered from progressive dementia and had a debilitating stroke that weakened the right side of her body.
Both sides also agreed that Konrardy was a known fall risk and that she had fallen between seven and ten times while she was living in the nursing home. They also agreed that the injuries resulting from Konrardy’s fall caused her death.
Konrardy’s family alleged that she had problems with bed sores, was dehydrated and lacked nutrition, had poor hygiene, and was left unattended and even left the facility. The defense attributed the dehydration and lack of nutrition to other medical conditions documented in Konrardy’s medical chart.
Benjamin Long, attorney for the family, alleged in opening arguments that Mill Valley was negligent and didn’t staff adequately, chart issues reliably, administer medications, nor follow Konrardy’s care plan.
Defense attorney W. Patrick Sullivan countered that the aide caring for Konrardy Jan. 19 was standing 2 to 3 feet from Konrardy, turned her back for a moment to lay out the resident’s clothes, and turned back to see the resident mid-fall. The aide’s actions were reasonable, not negligent, Sullivan said.
To the plaintiffs’ claim of unreliable charting, Sullivan said that revising charts is not unusual. He said changes on Konrardy’s chart were made to correct an error and that it wasn’t hidden.
The defense also said Mill Valley followed Konrardy’s resident care plan, which stated that she needed one assistant (such as a nurse’s aide) to transfer her and take her to the bathroom.
The Konrardy family and Mill Valley filed incident complaints with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, which oversees such cases. A surveyor investigated the complaints for three days at the nursing home.
The defense showed a letter to the jury in which the surveyor concluded that Mill Valley had “appropriate supervision” and “provided interventions to keep the resident safe.”
-- Sara Millhouse and Kelly Gerlach contributed to this report.