PONTIAC (Heartland Newsfeed) — In a press release made available late Saturday evening, a jury trial in Livingston County has concluded involving wrongful termination of employment due to blowing the whistle on her employer, reporting elderly abuse and neglect of residents at a nursing facility.
Katrina Wesemann, a licensed practical nurse, was fired in October 2012 by Bloomington-based Heritage Enterprises, Inc. for reporting instances of elderly abuse and resident neglect at the Heritage Manor nursing facility in Dwight.
Wesemann presented evidence before a jury that Heritage fired her for whistleblowing on their operations on the Dwight facility, refusing to follow orders from the Director of Nursing to “drop a pill”, double-dosing agitated residents with anti-anxiety medications or refusing to delete or omit records regarding suspicious injuries incurred on residents.
Wesemann prevailed on all three counts, pursuant to various whistleblower provisions in Illinois, that protect workers who report illegal or improper conduct at nursing homes or other regulated industries, noting that she was wrongfully fired in retaliation for her call to the corporate hotline to report illegal and unsafe directives mandated by her supervisor, as well as other acts protected by state law.
With strong arguments from Wesemann’s legal representation, Naperville-based Coffey Law Office, P.C. and Chicago-based co-counsel Loevy and Loevy and Amanda S. Yarusso, the jury delivered a powerful message to Heritage Enterprises, with a punitive damages award of $5,277,891. This, in part, represents compensation resulting from lost wages and benefits as well as emotional distress resulting from retaliation from Heritage.
Following the termination, Wesemann had to work temporary and part-time jobs until she was hired full time with benefits with another nursing home, where she is currently a managing nurse.
The jury trial began Nov. 27 before Judge Robert Travers with the case presented by Wesemann’s lawyers and her own testimony, which lasted until Dec. 1, with evidence presented that Heritage management failed to report and chose to cover up incidents of elderly abuse and neglect, often encouraging their employees to do the same, all of which is in violation of Illinois state laws and regulations geared toward protecting the elderly who partake in their services and products. Heritage’s legal representation presented their case Monday, Dec. 4.
The jury deliberated on their decision for roughly two hours before rendering their decision on Wednesday.
Heritage owns and manages nearly 50 nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the state of Illinois, which includes the Dwight facility.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.
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