Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 31, 2013

Senior facility settles lawsuit

By Angie Jackson
Traverse City Record-Eagle


Loretta Lockman Fineout was a “vibrant, feisty” woman of 87 when she moved into Hope Village senior living community in 2008.
Severe physical pain diminished Fineout’s will to live in the months leading up to her death in 2011, which loved ones contend was hastened by stolen prescription medication and many falls she took at the Williamsburg-based Hope Village, according to a lawsuit filed in Grand Traverse County’s 13th Circuit Court.
Lutheran Social Services of Michigan owns and operates Hope Village and denied any negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit in which Fineout’s son, Steve Lockman, is named as a personal representative. The parties reached a confidential settlement shortly before the case was to go to trial last November.
Fineout’s family received $1.75 million, according to press release from a communications firm hired by Dingeman, Dancer & Christopherson, a Traverse City law firm that represented Fineout’s family. The press release outlined general details of the case but did not name the involved parties.
Lockman declined to comment because of a nondisclosure agreement with Lutheran Social Services.
Fineout entered Hope Village with spinal stenosis, hypertension and diabetes, but could walk on her own. The lawsuit contends she was confined to a wheelchair shortly after she arrived.
Court documents state Fineout fell often and was hospitalized on multiple occasions for severe back pain. Doctors upped medication dosages, but the medicine was “improperly administered (not given) by Hope Village.”
“At one point, Loretta begged her family to just let her die to escape the pain,” lawsuit documents state.
Former Hope Village employee Sarah Hermes pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of attempted larceny in a building on allegations she stole Fineout’s medication in 2010, according to 86th District Court records. She was fired from Hope Village, according to court documents.
Lockman spoke at Hermes’ 2011 sentencing and said it was believed his mother was given placebos, an effort to cover for stolen medication. The wrongful death lawsuit originally included Hermes, but claims against her were dismissed.
The lawsuit alleges Fineout fell 42 times resulting in injuries while at Hope Village’s indepenvdent and assistant living center. On some occasions, staff didn’t respond for hours. She fell a final time in late 2010, struck her head and lost consciousness, according to court documents.
Lutheran Social Services replied that staff responded to Fineout’s falls. She “desired to remain as mobile as possible. That was her choice,” officials from the nonprofit said.
Lutheran Social Services owns other assisted living facilities in Grand Rapids and Bloomfield Hills. An attorney declined to comment on the settlement.