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March 31, 2022

December 21, 2023

A Kansas jury cleared a nursing home in the death of a woman who fell while in its care.

Mary Bentz, who was 79 years old at the time of her death in 2017, had been admitted to the Shawnee Gardens Healthcare and Rehab Center after she began wandering from home and became more aggressive.

On Sept. 7, 2017, Bentz fell and injured herself in the facility’s hallway. John Hicks, an attorney for the defendant, said Bentz had apparently pulled away from her caregivers and hurried down the hallway, where she tripped and landed on her left shoulder and face.

Bentz was diagnosed with a concussion but no broken bones, but she became even more combative and was extremely uncomfortable. The week after her earlier fall, Bentz fell while in the bathroom. No new injuries were found, it was noted that she had not used her left arm since her earlier fall, and it was discovered that she had a fractured shoulder.

Bentz’s health continued to decline, and she was placed on hospice and died on Oct. 4, 2017. Bentz’s family alleged that the falls had caused her death and that the facility fell below the standard of care by not preventing them. The defense argued that all reasonable interventions were in place at the time and that the falls were simply unavoidable. A defense expert said Bentz’s brain showed signs of chronic and age-related atrophy but did not show an acute hematoma that would have been attributable to her falls.

The jury was out for around two hours and returned a unanimous verdict for the defense. Hicks said the plaintiff had claimed $350,000 in noneconomic damages.

David Burkhead, an attorney for Bentz’s survivors, confirmed facts of the case but otherwise declined to comment.

This article was written by Scott Lauck and published in Missouri Lawyers Media.