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Panel OKs commission's $320,000 for Arkansas nursing home death

by John Moritz | August 19, 2016 at 5:45 a.m.

A legislative panel on Thursday affirmed a $320,000 claim against the Department of Human Services for the death of a partially paralyzed man who died at a state nursing home in 2013 after his breathing tube fell out.

The lawmakers voted 9-5 decided to approve the award set in March by the state Claims Commission, which split the amount between the estate of the deceased patient, Kenny Kendrick, and his mother, for Kendrick's wrongful death, negligence, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. The legislative subcommittee chose to award all the money to Kendrick's estate. The committee's decision must be confirmed by the Legislative Council today, and later by the General Assembly.

The Department of Human Services had appealed the commission's decision to the legislative subcommittee, which must approve the Claims Commission's findings. The department's representatives argued that the 41-year-old Kendrick was terminally ill and died as a result of the symptoms of his muscular dystrophy, with which he was diagnosed at birth.

Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, a chairman of the Claims Review Subcommittee, said the family had to prove negligence on the part of the state, as well as justify any compensation.

"He couldn't move his arms or his legs, but he could talk and his mind was just fine," said Jeff Priebe, an attorney for Kendrick's family.

Kendrick, who had been under the care of his mother for his whole life, was admitted to Arkansas Health Center in Benton, a state-run nursing home, in June 2013 after his mother was diagnosed with cancer, according to the testimony. On the morning of July 15, 2013, hospital records show, Kendrick died after nurses found that his breathing tube had disconnected.

No autopsy was performed, and one of Kendrick's doctors said he died of an "acute health event," according to agency files.

After about an hour of testimony surrounding the circumstances of Kendrick's death -- which included records showing he had been checked on several times that morning -- Priebe pointed out that the nursing home's records also showed Kendrick was fed and given water several hours after he died, prompting one lawmaker to question the department's arguments.

"If that actually took place, how can we trust your charts earlier in the morning?" said state Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, D-Hermitage. "That's devastating to your case."

Metro on 08/19/2016

Print Headline: Panel OKs commission's $320,000 for nursing home death


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