I am very grateful for the jury in Mt. Vernon, Ohio (Knox County) who unanimously delivered the largest verdict in the history of Knox County against the Laurel Health Care Company and Laurels of Mt. Vernon for negligently causing the death of 84-year-old Jack Huls. The jury reaffirmed that life, honesty, and accountability still mean something in our society.
Jack was a beloved member of the community, a Korean War veteran who fought at the battle of Hill 255 (Pork Chop Hill), a father, grandfather, friend, and an example of the kind of person we should all strive to become. Jack died on February 23, 2017, from untreated clostridium difficile infection (c. diff) that had caused septic shock and multi-organ failure.
9 days before his death, February 12th, the Laurels sent a bag of laundry home with his family that included 5 pairs of pants that were covered in diarrhea from the waste to cuff. Unaware of what was in the tightly sealed bag, Jack’s daughter opened the bag and was met with an unforgettable stench. Jack’s family contacted The Laurels and reported that they were very concerned. They offered to photograph the pants, but The Laurels instructed them not to.
Jack’s family went online and began investigating the cause of his diarrhea and immediately found information on c. diff, a highly contagious bacteria in the colon that produces toxins causing severe diarrhea and stomach cramping.
Jack’s family printed these materials and brought them to the Laurels of Mt. Vernon. They provided those materials to the Director of Nursing, Facility Administrator, Unit Manager and Social Worker from the Laurels of Mt. Vernon and the Corporate Clinical Nurse from the Laurel Health Care Company. Jack’s family told the representatives that they believed that Jack had c. diff.
The Laurels in no uncertain terms told Jack’s family that he did not have c. diff. Jack’s family was relieved by the assurances that Jack did not have this infection. The Laurels never reported any of this information to a doctor and never tested Jack for c. diff .There were two other cases of c. diff near Jack’s room at the time. The Laurels never revealed this information to Jack’s family.
The Laurels’ policies and the standard of care required The Laurels to report this information to a doctor. They chose not to do this.
2 days later Jack was sent unresponsive to Knox Community Hospital where he was diagnosed with septic shock and c. diff. Jack died on February 23, 2017. The cause of death was septic shock due to c. diff.
Jack’s family filed this lawsuit in 2018 and The Laurels refused to accept any responsibility. For 4.5 years, the Laurels denied that Jack ever had c. diff. and claimed he died from unrelated causes including Parkinson’s, dementia, COPD, and a “geriatric cascade” caused by a fall at home 4 months earlier. The Laurels hired numerous, expensive medical “experts” and a large law firm to defend them.
Despite the money that The Laurels and their lawyers spent to avoid responsibility, the jury unanimously found these efforts to avoid responsibility unconvincing. Yesterday, on June 24, 2022, the jury correctly chose to hold the Laurels of Mt. Vernon and Laurel Health Care Company responsible for negligently causing Jack’s death.
The jury found The Laurels of Mt. Vernon 60% responsible and The Laurels Health Care Company (the large Michigan company with dozens of “Laurels” nursing homes across the eastern part of the country) 40% responsible for causing Jack’s death.
I have no way of expressing my thanks to the great people of Knox County who affirmed that we still live in a society where telling the truth matters, where treating people the right way matters, where human life at any age matters, where corporations are not permitted to put their profits over safety, and where there are repercussions for our actions.