Hermantown senior living facility, rape victim settle out of courtAn 89-year-old woman who was raped by a caregiver at Edgewood Vista in Hermantown has settled out of court with the senior living facility, but will continue to seek damages against her confessed attacker, her attorney said Tuesday.
By: Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune
An 89-year-old woman who was raped by a caregiver at Edgewood Vista in Hermantown has settled out of court with the senior living facility, but will continue to seek damages against her confessed attacker, her attorney said Tuesday.
Attorney Mark Kosieradzki declined to discuss specifics of the settlement, but said it was “satisfactory” to his client — the victim — and her family. The resolution was the result of mediation sessions that came just before a pretrial motion hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday.
The settlement removes from the lawsuit Edgewood Management Group and two local administrators — Executive Director Gary Becker and Clinical Services Director Marilyn Moore. A spokesman for the Grand Forks, N.D.-based company did not immediately return a phone call and email from the News Tribune Tuesday.
Kosieradzki said he and the family will continue to seek punitive damages against 30-year-old Andrew Scott Merzwski, who confessed to raping the woman. Merzwski, who is serving a 53-month prison term, has not hired an attorney to represent him in the suit, nor has he filed any response.
“Just because he chooses not to hire an attorney and is sitting in jail, doesn’t mean he’s not going to be held accountable in a civil suit,” Kosieradzki said. “This has never been a thing about money. This is a case about holding Merzwski accountable.”
Merzwski, formerly a certified nursing assistant at Edgewood, pleaded guilty in November to a third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge. He admitted that he entered the woman’s bedroom on Jan. 17, 2013, and gave her medications before initiating sexual intercourse.
After reporting the rape, the woman was held against her wishes at the mental health unit of St. Luke’s hospital for nearly three days, according to court documents. Attorneys for the woman allege that staff
members may have doubted her claims because she was in early stages of dementia.
Attorneys also allege that Edgewood attempted to interfere with an investigation of the incident and place blame on the victim.
Moore, in an interview days after the incident, allegedly asked a nurse examiner: “Did she tell you that this was consensual? Did she tell you that she flirts with this boy mercilessly? Did she tell you that she encouraged him to have sex with her?”
The nurse examiner, Theresa Flesvig, reported that the woman’s injuries were among the worst she had ever seen in a rape case, and stated that intercourse must have been “really painful.”
The victim told Flesvig that she was so afraid that she blocked the door to her apartment because “I don’t want him to come back.” She has since moved to a Twin Cities apartment.
A state investigation later found that Edgewood failed to report the incident in a timely manner, but determined that Merzwski, not the facility, was responsible for the rape.
The allegations have made national headlines, which Kosieradzki said he hopes will bring attention to nursing home abuse.
“If he’s held accountable, a message will be sent to Merzwski and any other potential sex abuser out there, and hopefully deter other sex abusers,” he said.
The attorney said he’s hopeful that the case will also bring about changes to future nursing home abuse cases.
“My hope is that the Minnesota Department of Health will look back at this and say, ‘Why did we miss this? What can we do in the future to protect vulnerable adults?’”