Madison County jurors reject Lakin's $15.6 million request in trial against Rosewood

Steve Gonzalez and Ann Knef Dec. 12, 2007, 6:00am


A Madison County jury rejected plaintiff attorney Brad Lakin's request for $15.6 million in a wrongful death trial against Rosewood Care Center of Edwardsville.

After deliberating just two hours, jurors on Tuesday gave nothing to Vickey Metz of Edwardsville. She claimed her mother, Blanche Rexing, entered Rosewood for rehabilitation and died of acute toxicity from oxycodone and opiates.

According to Metz's complaint, Rexing was a resident at Rosewood from June 16, 2005, until her death on Aug. 27, 2005.

During closing arguments, Lakin asked jurors for $2.6 million in compensatory damages and $13 million in punitive damages.

Dennis McCubbin, general counsel for Rosewood Care Center, said he was "very pleased" that Rosewood has been vindicated.

"There was a tremendous amount of pre-trial publicity, mostly containing allegations of the lawsuit," he said. "All of those were rejected by the jury."

Attorney Kevin Hoerner provided defense at trial. In closing he told jurors to either award all of the damages requested, or nothing at all.

Metz, among other things, claimed Rosewood failed to ensure that her mother was free of any significant medication errors within the acceptable standards of care.

Metz claimed her mother and her estate incurred medical expenses, intense pain and suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life, disability and ultimately death.

The trial, which lasted a week in Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian's court, was the third one against Rosewood this year.

In March, Madison County Circuit Judge Dave Hylla declared a mistrial in a case against Rosewood Care Center of Edwardsville after jurors failed to reach a verdict.

Hylla excused the deadlocked jurors who could not unanimously decide on Rosewood's alleged negligence in its care of Alfred Graves.

Paul Graves sued the nursing home after his father suffered a fractured hip six hours into his respite care visit in January 2003.

Plaintiff's attorney Robert Gregory argued that Alfred Graves "was in essence forgotten" when, while still in his street clothes, fell on the way to the bathroom at 12:24 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2003.

But Rosewood's Hoerner said the nursing home did not fail to complete any assessment as required before "the poor gentleman fell."

He also said that Rosewood Care Center relied upon the assessment made by Graves' primary physician who was contacted "first thing" upon admission. Graves' physician did not put any restrictions on his activity level, Hoerner said.

In October, a jury awarded the family of Rosewood Care Center resident Margaret Schwab, but entered a judgment of $58,000, a fraction of the $1 million in damages they requested.

The lawsuit was brought in 2004 by Thomas Schwab, who claimed Margaret Schwab's neck and back injuries suffered during a fall in her room on Dec. 21, 2003 led to her death.

During closing arguments, plaintiff attorney Craig Jensen of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River insisted his case wasn't about the money.

Rosewood attorney Stephen Strum said the nursing staff witnesses put before the jury were "mentally beaten up" by attorney Jensen.

Strum said that Mrs. Schwab's family was happy with her treatment and that there was "not one single complaint from them." He said that good nursing judgment was used in her care.

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