Harford assisted living facility ordered to pay family of former resident $710,000

An assisted living care facility in Forest Hill has been ordered to pay $710,000 to the family of a former resident, who the plaintiffs claim was neglected by staff for several hours prior to her death two years ago.

The Estate of Marie Brockmeyer and her five children filed a nine-count suit in Harford County Circuit Court in January 2013 against Hart Heritage of Forest Hill Inc., a 55-bed assisted living facility on Rock Spring Road, claiming Mrs. Brockmeyer was neglected and didn't get the necessary emergency care that could have saved her life.

On March 25, 2012, Mrs. Brockmeyer, who had lived at the facility since July 2011, became sick and vomited several times and developed severe and continuous diarrhea, according to court documents.

Mrs. Brockmeyer was cleaned off and left in a recliner for more than eight hours and the facility staff failed to call her physician, the registered nurse on call or 911 until just before her death, the lawsuit states. She died at Hart Heritage prior to medics arriving on March 26, 2012.

The suit was heard in Harford County Circuit Court before a jury with Judge Yolanda Curtain presiding. On March 12, the jury awarded the family of Mrs. Brockmeyer $1 million. The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act, however, puts a statutory cap of $710,000 on such awards.

The family is pleased with the judgment, Roger Weinberg, the Towson lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, said Thursday, because "it brings some kind of vindication to them."

The lawyer said the jury, by its verdict, acknowledged that Hart Heritage didn't get Mrs. Brockmeyer any emergency care and couldn't blame the death on members of Mrs. Brockmeyer's family.

"Obviously we are very disappointed in the jury's verdict given the evidence that was presented," Gerard Emig, of Rockville, who represented Hart Heritage, said.

"We are in the process of filing post-trial motions and a possible appeal," Emig said. He had no further comment.

Weinberg said the family's goal in filing the complaint "was to make sure something like this doesn't happen again at other nursing homes and assisted living facilities in [Harford] County."

Her family looked at several care facilities in the county near her son, Phillip Brockmeyer, who lives in Jarrettsville, and they chose Hart Heritage because the facility was only a few years old and close to where Phillip Brockmeyer lives and works, Weinberg said.

"They wanted to bring it to light and get people to change their ways and to make sure others don't have to go through what they had to go through," he said of the family.

Mrs. Brockmeyer's family wasn't able to say goodbye to her and as a Catholic, she didn't get last rites, Weinberg said.

"They have this picture of her dying in a recliner in the lobby of this place. That was hard for them," he said.

Since the suit was filed, Hart Heritage never apologized or accepted any responsibility for Mrs. Brockmeyer's death, Weinberg said.

Hart Heritage based its defense, Weinberg said, on a note in Mrs. Brockmeyer's patient record that said her son did not want her to be taken to the hospital. Weinberg said Hart Heritage admitted that was not correct.

"Her son, Phillip, was very active in her care. Her family was upset over how while thing was handled," Weinberg said.

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