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Wrongful death lawsuit ends in settlement

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
July 15, 2003
Opposing sides in a nursing home lawsuit against Benchmark Health Care have reached an out-out-court settlement for an undisclosed amount.
The complaint was filed in March 2001 by Lannie Bolden of Meridian. She alleged that poor care at the nursing home caused the death of her father, Ernest McWilliams, in October 1999.
The case had been scheduled to go to trial July 28 in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.
At the time McWilliams was a resident, Benchmark was owned by Guy Howard of Meridian who has since sold the business and moved out of state.
Howard was represented by Meridian attorney Benny Carter of Bourdeaux &Jones. The settlement came after Carter interviewed 28 people who had worked as nurse's aides at the home.
While agreeing to the settlement, Howard and two co-defendants made no admission of any wrong-doing. Both sides and their attorneys are forbidden to reveal the settlement amount.
This lawsuit is one of eight filed in the last two years against Benchmark Health Care. Seven of the eight allege wrongful death, and five were filed in December 2002 just before Mississippi's new tort reform laws took effect.
Five of the eight groups suing Benchmark are represented by Wilkes &McHugh of Tampa, Fla. which specializes in nursing home litigation and has won record-breaking jury awards throughout the Southeast.
Wilkes &McHugh targeted Mississippi as an expansion area in 2001 and has since opened an office in Hattiesburg.
Attorneys from the law firm also represent, or have represented, plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits against five other Meridian nursing homes. In two instances, cases have been voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs.
The Benchmark settlement is the second for Wilkes &McHugh in Lauderdale County. A personal injury lawsuit against King's Daughters &Sons Rest Home was settled for an undisclosed amount in November 2001.