Family gets $50,000 in death at Warner’s
The family of an elderly Altoona man who died while a resident of Warner’s Home for the Aged, 1100 14th Ave., has been awarded $50,806 by Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva.
The judge handed down a memorandum and an order Friday afternoon that put numbers on the amount of money owed to the family of Kenneth G. McGuire, who died at age 80, after living at Warner’s for about five years.
McGuire was self-sufficient and able to pretty much care for himself until the last six months of his life when he suffered a series of health-related incidents that included an injured leg.
When he died on Nov. 17, 2011, McGuire was suffering from bed sores on his arms, legs, buttocks and other areas and from malnutrition and wasting, according to Dr. Harry Kamerow, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy.
The home’s owner, Sherry Jo Warner, 65, and two employees, Diana L. Frye, 62, and Marjorie Koch, 44, were each charged by the Pennsylvania Attorney General with neglect of a dependent person.
The three, in separate court appearances, entered pleas. Warner and Frye were given short prison sentences while Koch, who cooperated with investigators, received probation.
In each of the three hearings, McGuire’s daughter, Theresa Strunk of Altoona, presented an emotional statement relating how she missed her father and stating he should not have had to suffer as he did in the last months of his life. Strunk, the administratrix of her father’s estate, filed a lawsuit against Warner’s and its owner, Sherry Jo Warner.
Court records show that the lawsuit, pursued by Altoona attorney Douglas V. Stoehr, went
Stoehr then asked for the judge to find in favor of Strunk and her father’s estate, which she did.
While negligence was admitted, the next step was to put numbers on the books representing a monetary award.
Stoehr filed a request for a hearing, stating it would be up to the judge to make the final decision on the award to McGuire’s family.
The procedure for determining damages was unusual because Warner had defaulted, and it became a question to be settled by the judge, Stoehr said. The judge made an award of $25,806 under Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act and $30,000 under a Pennsylvania Survival Action.
Wrongful death provides compensation to a spouse, parents or children for an act of neglect or unlawful violence, Kopriva stated.
A survival action is awarded to the estate.
The judge said she recognized the “deep love” Strunk had for her father, which she expressed during the sentencing hearings, and the “pain” she suffers because of her father’s death.
But the judge pointed out that the two had a “minimal relationship” while he was in Warner’s, and she concluded, “Our award will reflect this finding.”
The judge reported that McGuire suffered pain from his deteriorating medical condition, another factor in her award. Kopriva also stated that the Department of Public Welfare has made a claim of more than $15,000 on McGuire’s estate for care it paid for.
Warner’s Home for the Aged was closed down by the state after the McGuire incident, and the three Warner employees who were charged in the case have been barred by the judge from working in the health care field.