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Jury awards $700k in man's overdose at St. Louis County nursing home

Jury awards $700k in man's overdose at St. Louis County nursing home

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This story has been updated with information on the status of a protective agency's investigation of Normandy Nursing Center.

A nursing home in north St. Louis County is responsible for the death in 2009 of a mentally ill resident who overdosed on morphine he was never prescribed, a jury decided Monday.

William Christopher Jones, 46, died in a hospital after being found unresponsive at the Normandy Nursing Center in August 2009.

His death was initially attributed to a heart attack, but toxicology tests showed a lethal level of morphine. It remains unclear how the morphine got into Jones’ system.

Jones’ brother Ronald Jones and nephew Jamie Jones sued the nursing home, and after a weeklong trial a St. Louis County Circuit Court jury ruled in their favor with damages of $700,000.

“(Jones) was not allowed to leave the nursing home, and anything he got had to come from the nursing home or the nursing home staff,” said Jeffrey Kays, an attorney for Ronald Jones from Ashland, Mo.

Staff members and other witnesses testified that pain pills were sometimes left on a counter in the nurses’ station and some residents received morphine injections, Kays said.

Normandy police investigated Jones’ death but did not file any charges after determining the nursing home’s morphine supply was accounted for. State health officials did not find any violations related to the death.

Teresa Bartosiak, a St. Louis attorney for the nursing home at 7301 St. Charles Rock Road, said the damages would be reduced to $350,000 under a Missouri malpractice cap. She said the decision would probably be appealed.

“The facility and staff work very hard every day to take care of individuals who have many debilitating health care issues,” Bartosiak said.

The nursing home’s administrator, Kerry Kaufmann, did not respond to a request for comment. The nursing home received a below-average two out of five stars in a Medicare ranking system that includes staffing and safety measures. In December, the home was cited by state investigators for failing to control weight loss in several residents.

Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services, which handles abuse and neglect allegations involving people with disabilities, opened an investigation of Normandy Nursing Center in 2011 on behalf of a 37-year-old resident who was taken to a hospital with dehydration, malnutrition and kidney failure. The agency found the center's staff failed to provide appropriate medical care and is in the process of alerting the state department of mental health.

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