The Ottumwa Courier

April 7, 2014

Trial set in nursing home death

Courier staff writer

---- — DES MOINES — A federal lawsuit against the Van Buren County Good Samaritan Society has a court date, but it’s not soon.

Clyde Sprouse and Shelley Ragen filed the suit after the death of Mary Sprouse, Clyde’s wife and Shelley’s mother. Mary Sprouse was among the focal points of a state inspection of the nursing home. The inspectors criticized the facility and said Sprouse fell dozens of times while in its care.

Sprouse died after hitting her head when she fell in the facility’s hallway.

The suit’s initial filing cited “at least 23 occasions” on which Sprouse fell while unattended. The family also claimed the facility failed to properly notify them of her falls. They accuse Good Samaritan of breaching the contract for Sprouse’s residency by failing to provide “safe, adequate nursing care services.”

Good Samaritan admitted the fact of Sprouse’s falls in its response but rejected the family’s claim to damages. The facility “fully discharged any and all duties owed to the Plaintiff,” according to its filing.

The suit was filed in late 2013. More than a year will elapse before it goes to trial. Initial disclosures are due next month and the deadline to add parties is in June. The plaintiffs must designate their expert witnesses by July 1, while the defense has until Sept. 2 for that process.

Discovery, the process by which the sides in a court case investigate and uncover relevant information, must be complete by Nov. 14.

Trial is scheduled for July 27, 2015, more than 18 months after the case was originally filed. The court expects it to last approximately five days.

The trial could be unusual in one respect. The parties have been notified it is eligible for video recording. That is tremendously unusual in the federal courts.

State courts generally allow cameras and recording of proceedings. Federal courts do not. But a pilot project is underway to examine whether the court proceedings might be recorded, with a total of 14 trial courts participating.

The Southern District of Iowa is among the courts participating. Whether the trial will be recorded is unclear as yet, since the parties have time to file a formal response to the possibility.