Wrongful death suit filed against St. Mark’s

Published 10:52 am Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The daughter of a woman who died at St. Mark’s Living in October 2014 has filed a wrongful death suit in Mower County District Court against the Austin nursing home.

Lorri Solyst Terpeney said in her suit, filed earlier this year, that the home showed negligence when a nurse failed to remove skin patches containing the opioid Fentanyl before applying fresh ones, thereby giving the patient, Alvera Solyst, an overdose. Solyst, 94, died Oct. 19 in a hospital.

The four-count civil suit seeks compensatory damages in excess of $50,000. On Monday, Judge Kevin Siefken heard arguments from both sides about a potential future motion that would amend the complaint to add a claim for punitive damages as well.

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Attorneys for St. Mark’s have denied all negligence claims in the complaint and damages.

Court documents say that nurse Samantha Stark, who worked at the home part-time, administered 175 mcg in new patches of the painkiller but did not remove the older ones. Such patches are used so the drug can continuously and slowly release the drug into a person’s system. It was used in the case of Alvera Solyst for her back and leg pain, according to documents.

Old patches that are three days old still contain enough narcotic that, when added to, could be lethal, according to court documents. Stark told one nurse on the next shift that she could not find the old patches — sometimes patches fall off — and the nurse said she would look into it. But she did not and it was not until another nurse came on shift 36 hours later that Solyst was checked. Nurse Mindy Ohm found Solyst lethargic, non-responsive and unable to walk. As she declined, Solyst’s  daughter was called, the complaint says. Kay Solyst said her mother had noticeably declined in two days from Oct. 14-Oct. 16, and that she “was shocked” by the change in her.

The plaintiff claims that St. Mark’s Living committed ordinary negligence — or rather, failure to use reasonable care and professional negligence, which means that St. Mark’s did not maintain a standard of care. Two other counts of negligence in supervision and management are also included.

While the answer to the complaint was not available in the court documents on Monday, St. Mark’s attorney, Tamara Novotny, representing the firm Cousineau McGuire Chartered, of Minneapolis, said in her response to Monday’s arguments having to do with punitive damages that the actions of one nurse should not cause the plaintiff to cast a too-wide net of blame.

“There is no evidence of maliciousness … or deliberate disregard” for the health of the resident on the part of St. Mark’s. Staff did what they could to help Stolyst once the overdose was recognized.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Joel Smith, however, insisted the home had a “systemic and continuous disregard for Ms. Solyst’s safety while she was entrusted to the defendant’s care.”

No trial date has been set.