Journal Sentinel: Rape Victim’s Family Sues Nursing Home

Posted by PKSD Law Firm on Nov 26, 2010 in Cases Filed

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

The family of a 90-year-old woman who died after she was sexually assaulted by another resident at Franciscan Villa has sued the South Milwaukee nursing home for wrongful death.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, claims that administrators and staff at the home at 3601 S. Chicago Ave. were negligent because they failed to take action earlier against the perpetrator despite prior sexual outbursts against residents and staff.

According to the complaint and state records, a 90-year-old male resident was caught trying to sexually assault a different woman in a dining room on Jan. 25, 2009. He was pulled away and led to his room by a manager, who then left him unattended while she went to get medication to stop his sexual urges. He was found shortly thereafter in another female resident’s room with his pants down.

Staff responded but again left him alone in the hallway, the suit contends, and he next found the victim alone in her room and raped her. A visitor to another resident heard the woman’s distress and went to her room, where he found the man assaulting the victim. She stopped eating from the shock and trauma of the attack and died 18 days later.

A state Department of Health Services review later found that the initial assault on Jan. 25 had never been documented, and that the Franciscan Villa administrator defended his staff’s actions that day.

The lawsuit contends the administrator, James Weibeler, also refused to apologize to the family of the 90-year-old victim, who had resided at the facility for 49 months.

Jeffrey Pitman, the lawyer representing the victim’s estate, said the perpetrator, who suffered from dementia, was later committed in a different facility. He was never charged criminally for any of the sexual assaults.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Asked for comment, Weibeler released a statement Wednesday that said Franciscan Villa was and is a safe facility with quality care and has fully cooperated with local and state authorities.

“In order to respect the rights of the victim, Franciscan Villa will not publicly comment on the factual allegations contained in the Complaint. We deeply regret this incident and our hearts go out to the family of this resident.”

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