A family is suing Mill Valley Care Center in Bellevue after their mother, Jeanette Konrardy, fell at the nursing home and then died five days later.
The trial began with jury selection Wednesday. Plaintiff and defense attorneys gave opening arguments Thursday morning. Testimony began Thursday afternoon.
Konrardy’s children — Kim Cueno, Michael Nemmers, Kevin Nemmers, John Nemmers, Beth Radil, Brian Nemmers and Terry Nemmers — filed suit in 2017 against the Bellevue nursing home and its owner and operator Riverview Development Corporation and Healthcare of Iowa, Inc., a management firm.
A judge in November ruled to remove Healthcare of Iowa from the suit.
Konrardy’s family is suing for wrongful death, alleging the loss of company, punitive damages, negligence, dependent adult abuse, recklessness, and breach of contract.
The family is suing for $8 million.
Konrardy, 84, 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 plaintiffs’ court filings.
Konrardy suffered traumatic brain injury, vertebrae fractures, and facial fractures. Her death certificate lists the immediate cause of death as blunt force trauma.
The plaintiffs’ attorney Thursday morning said the family is suing for two reasons: The family alleges 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 10 times while she was living in the nursing home. They also agreed that the injuries resulting from Konrardy’s Jan. 19 fall caused her death.
Konrardy’s family alleges 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 plaintiff’s 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 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.”
Senior care and geriatric experts for the plaintiffs were expected to take the stand Thursday afternoon. The defense and the plaintiffs said they planned to question experts, Konrardy’s family, and Mill Valley staff, including the aide who was caring for Konrardy at the time of her fall.
The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.
— Kelly Gerlach contributed to this report.