Employee compelled to testify in civil assault case against nursing home; leads to $7.5 million award

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A Pennsylvania jury has awarded $7.5 million to the family of a dementia patient who was sexually assaulted by a fellow resident of her nursing home.

After a two-week trial, a Lancaster County jury found Maple Farm Nursing Center and its parent company were 85% liable for the 2013 sexual assault.

The jury also found that the facility, owned by Garden Spot Village, had shown reckless indifference in failing to prevent the assault by a resident with a known history of sexual violence, according to The Legal Intelligencer.

The law website reported that the case broke new ground with a Superior Court decision that the Older Adults Protective Services Act does not prevent individuals who report elder abuse from testifying in subsequent civil litigation. A three-judge panel rejected the nursing home's argument that its employee's testimony was privileged under the act.

The plaintiffs, two members of the victim's family, were allowed to depose the Garden Spot Village employee who reported the abuse to the Lancaster County Office of Aging.

A plaintiff's memo contended that accused resident, Glenn Hershey, who had cerebral palsy, targeted the 82-year-old victim, because of her dementia. Maple Farm knew Hershey was a registered sex offender who had previously been convicted of rape, and in its own filing said it had screened Hershey before admitting him.

The plaintiffs' attorney also said Hershey had threatened to rape a caregiver and cited concerns the facility's staff raised about “sexually aggressive behavior” toward the eventual victim prior to the assault.

According to court documents, employees knew the two were in a relationship, although staff did not believe the victimized resident could consent because of her condition.

Instead of appealing the jury's May 3 decision, Garden Spot Village agreed the next day to settle the case for $6.5 million “in conjunction with its insurer.”

“Garden Spot Village and Maple Farm, although disappointed by the outcome of the trial, respect the decision of the jury," spokesman Scott Miller said in a statement.

Hershey, 71, is in state prison and was not at the trial, according to LNP Media Group. His victim has since died.