Claims of elder abuse at the Good Samaritan Society nursing home in Albert Lea continue to make their way through the court systems. A civil lawsuit was filed in South Dakota in June against nursing home parent company Good Samaritan Society. It is the fourth civil lawsuit filed by families of the nursing home residents who were abused. The abuse, by six young women nursing assistants, allegedly occurred between January and May 2008.
Also, one of the young women aides accused of abuse requested that her upcoming criminal trial be moved out of Freeborn County, citing negative publicity in the Albert Lea Tribune newspaper. A judge granted that request July 2. The lawyer representing Bri-anna Marie Broitzman, 20, asked for the move June 24. Attorney Larry Maus cited “irresponsible, continuous and massive publication” by the newspaper, as well as negative reader comments posted online. He questioned how his client could find a fair jury pool in Freeborn County.
Broitzman and Ashton Michelle Larson, 20, along with four juveniles, faced criminal charges as the result of the abuse. Nursing home residents were emotionally, physically and sexually abused. The incidents have also brought civil court action against Good Samaritan Society, and allegations that the young nursing assistants weren’t properly supervised.
The Argus-Leader newspaper of Sioux Falls, S.D., reported in mid-June that another civil lawsuit has been filed against the nursing home parents company, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. The parent company is based in Sioux Falls. The latest filing brings the number of civil lawsuits filed in South Dakota to four. The lawsuits seek compensation on behalf of five nursing home residents.
The latest civil case is similar to one filed by the law firm of Sieben, Grose, Von Holtum, & Carey in Freeborn County in January. One reason for the additional case filing is the difference in Minnesota and South Dakota civil case law. The South Dakota cases are similar to one filed on behalf of abuse victims and their families in Freeborn County in January. However, some victims in the case have died, and when victims in Minnesota die, liability goes away. But in South Dakota, family members can pursue claims after someone passes away.
The Good Samaritan Society maintains in court filings it wasn’t aware of the abuse and that officials acted quickly to end the abuse once it was discovered. The nursing assistants were relieved of their duties. Minnesota state officials did their own investigation and decided not to cite the nursing home, which Good Samaritan officials see as being in their favor.
Attorney James Carey, who represents victims in the civil court case, has described the situation in Albert Lea as “abuse bordering on torture.”
An aging population and difficult financial times have created the “potential for disaster,” Carey said. Hiring young nursing assistants and not providing proper training and supervision puts elderly people and people with disabilities at great risk.“
This wasn’t just one incident that went on behind closed doors,” Carey said. “This was multiple incidents, multiple times, in multiple locations around the nursing home.”
“You really have to ask, who was watching the store? Who was supervising these nursing assistants?”
Broitzman’s trial is to start July 12. She faces 11 counts, including three counts of fifth-degree assault, six counts of criminal abuse by a caregiver, one count of disorderly conduct and one count of mandatory failure to report suspected abuse.
Broitzman and Larson are charged as adults, while the other four have been charged as juveniles. Larson goes on trial in Freeborn County in August.
According to the Tribune, Maus read online comments posted about the elder abuse articles in court and cited past coverage as reasons to move the case elsewhere. He is concerned that the case has turned into a “witch hunt”.
The Freeborn County Attorney, Craig Nelson, has taken a neutral position on the request to move the trial. But he has noted the inconvenience and expense of moving a trial.
Albert Lea Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer issued the following statement: “I am saddened by the fact that Mr. Maus has decided to use the media as a scapegoat in his trial, as we are only the messenger. We did not make up the charges, but will report them as any news agency would.”