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Kansas jury sides with nursing home after woman’s death

A Kansas jury rejected efforts to recover damages by the surviving daughter of a woman who died at an Overland Park nursing home in January 2018.

Vicki Schmitz sued the Overland Park Nursing & Rehab Center, both individually and on behalf of the estate of her late mother, Virginia Shirley McCombs. The 2019 lawsuit, filed in Johnson County District Court in Kansas, alleged that the facility’s negligence caused McCombs’ death from a mistreated pressure ulcer on her coccyx.

The jury deliberated for about three hours before unanimously siding with the defense, said attorney John Hicks of Norris Keplinger Hicks & Welder, who represented the health care facility.

The defense argument centered on the fact that McCombs was admitted to the nursing home with a diagnosis of end-stage Lewy body dementia — and that the facility “properly identified and treated multiple wounds while she resided there for three years,” Hicks said.

“The final wound was being properly treated as well, but Ms. McCombs ultimately died due to her other comorbidities,” he said.

At trial, Hicks said, one of the major issues was the type of mattress McCombs slept on at the time her final pressure ulcer worsened. The defense presented evidence that all residents are placed on pressure reduction mattresses, but that McCombs was upgraded to an even higher level of mattress in 2015. 

The plaintiff countered that the enhanced mattress was not in place until Dec. 1, 2017 — and that by then it was too late. 

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Defense verdict (out of state)

Wrongful death

Venue: Johnson County, Kansas, District Court

Case Number/Date: 19CV-04606/Dec. 9, 2021

Judge: Paul Gurney

Plaintiff’s Expert: Dr. Nevada Lee, Leawood, Kansas (internal medicine)

Defendant’s Experts: Dr. Bruce Robinson; Sarasota, Florida (internal medicine-geriatrics); Lisa Gildred, San Ynez, California (nursing-wound care); Dr. Michael Schwartzman, Kansas City) internal medicine-neurology)

First pretrial demand: $210,000

First pretrial offer: $0

Insurer: MMIC (for defendant)

Caption: Vicky Schmitz v. Overland Park Nursing & Rehab Center Inc.

Plaintiff’s Attorney: David Burkhead, Burkhead Law, Overland Park, Kansas

Defendant’s Attorney: John Hicks, Norris Keplinger Hicks & Welder, Leawood, Kansas