A wrongful death lawsuit against Emmaus Homes in Warren County has been dismissed because the plaintiff failed to provide a legal statement in time.
Longtime Emmaus resident Lloyd Roeckel died Dec. 16, 2016, allegedly as a result of injuries he sustained in a fall after being moved to an Emmaus group home in Truesdale.
Roeckel’s nephew, Brian Smith, sued Emmaus in April for wrongful death. He contended that negligence on the part of Roeckel’s caretakers led to the fall.
Emmaus Homes Inc. is a private, nonprofit, faith-based organization that provides 24-hour residential and caretaking services for adults with developmental disabilities.
As part of that lawsuit, Smith or an attorney were required to submit an affidavit (a sworn statement) stating he had obtained the written opinion of a qualified health care provider to support his case. That affidavit was due no later than 180 days after filing the lawsuit April 19.
But, according to attorneys representing Emmaus, no such document had been filed with the Warren County Circuit Court as of Oct. 19. They filed a motion requesting Presiding Judge Wes Dalton dismiss the case.
Dalton agreed, dismissing the case Nov. 1.
However, the case was dismissed “without prejudice.” That means Smith could start the process over and file a new lawsuit if he so chooses. No judgment has been made about the actual facts of the case.
Smith had sought an unspecified amount of compensation in excess of $75,000 for wrongful death.
Roeckel was moved to the home in Truesdale late last year, as part of an effort to relocate all of the residents from Emmaus’ Marthasville campus, where he had lived for 15 years, the lawsuit states.
Roeckel, who was 71, was known to have a fall risk due to a hip replacement surgery, according to the lawsuit. Emmaus agreed that the basement staircase in the group home he was moving to would be modified to have ADA compliant railings and a gate at the top, according to the suit.
An Emmaus employee allegedly told Smith that Roeckel would not use the stairs except during a weather emergency.
When Roeckel moved in, however, the safety equipment allegedly was not installed on the staircase, and staff had placed an exercise bike for Roeckel’s regular physical therapy in the basement of the home, according to the lawsuit.
It was at the direction of Emmaus staff, the lawsuit claims, that Roeckel was going down the stairs to use the exercise bike on Dec. 2 and fell while halfway down the stairs. Roeckel suffered facial injuries, a broken nose and multiple spinal fractures, according to the suit.
State records indicate he died while hospitalized two weeks later as a result of cardiac arrest and respiratory failure.
An attorney for Smith said his uncle’s health failure was a “progression of his hospitalization.