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Award in Nursing Home Rape Expected to Top $2 Million

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CHICAGO DAILY LAW BULLETIN

Defense attorneys likely will appeal a potential award of more than $2 million given to an elderly woman who was sexually assaulted by a worker at her Kane County nursing home, a defense attorney said Friday.

"All I'm at liberty to say is there will be post-trial motions and there is probably going to be an appeal." said attorney Rocco J. DeMeo of Modesto, Reynolds & McDermott.

DeMeo represented Ashwood Health Care Center of Elgin, which admitted liability on the first day of trial Monday for hiring a nursing assistant without properly screening him, DeMeo said.

A $680,000 award was granted Wednesday afternoon in Kane County Circuit Court to the woman, now 95, who was sexually assaulted by a nursing assistant at Ashwood in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 1993, according to plaintiff's attorney Christopher T. Hurley.

Under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1979, employers are required to screen all prospective employees; the statute also provides for treble damages in cases of neglect or abuse by employees, Hurley said.

The jury's $680,000 award therefore was expected to be trebled to $2.04 million at a post-trial hearing on Feb. 2 by 16th Judicial Circuit Judge Pamela K. Jensen, Hurley said.

The attacker is now in his mid-20s and in jail on unrelated charges, Hurley said.

He was "hired on the spot" without being checked by the center for "moral adequacy," Hurley said, adding that it was later learned that he had a lengthy police record.

"They failed to screen the guy even to the slightest degree," Hurley said of Ashwood.

On the morning of the incident, the center was short-staffed and the man was the only worker in the wing where the victim had a room, Hurley said.

"She was just a helpless old woman who was basically bed-ridden." said Hurley, who teamed with attorney Thomas M. Paris on the case.

An Ashwood representative would not comment on the case.

The case is Brown v. Springwood & Associates, No. LKA 94-657.

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