Court Grants Access to Victim’s Medical Records in Nursing Home Abuse Case

Just last week, a South Dakota court granted a nursing home abuse defendant access to the victim’s medical records, according to a news release from the Nursing Home Abuse Center. Heather Lynn Laird, a 36-year-old former employee of the Dell Rapids Nursing and Rehab Center, was indicted last December for felony abuse and neglect of an elderly person. Now, Laird and her attorney have the right to view the victim’s medical records. Laird and her attorney hope that these medical records will prove relevant in the defense.

In January, Laird pled not guilty to the charges against her. Yet her record as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) suggests that this isn’t the first complaint.

Defendant’s History as an LPN Caregiver
In late 2012, the South Dakota Board of Nursing issued an order for summary suspension to temporarily suspend Laird’s nursing license until a hearing to determine whether she could continue to practice as an LPN in the state.

The Board issued this suspension after receiving a complaint from the long-term care facility where Laird had been employed. The complaint indicated that, on “at least five separate occasions,” Laird had been “rude and harsh in her dealing with residents.” In addition, the complaint alerted the Board that Laird “was rough with residents and used profanity toward them.” In each of these cases, Laird’s employer reprimanded her for these incidents and eventually fired her last July.

When the Board receives a complaint like this one, it meets with the accused as part of the investigation. Laird denied all of the accusations. The Board continued its investigation, but before it could meet to make a decision about the status of Laird’s LPN license, it received another complaint from the Dell Rapids Nursing and Rehab Center. This complaint concerned the case for which Laird has been charged with felony abuse and neglect of an elderly person.

Details of the Dell Rapids Case
According to the order issued by the South Dakota Board of Nursing, the complaint from Dell Rapids Nursing and Rehab Center concerns an altercation in which Laird attempted to administer medication to a resident by force. The resident is the alleged victim in the current case against Laird.

In the early morning of November 3, 2012, Laird went into the victim’s room and woke her up to administer medication. When the victim seemed surprised, Laird “forcefully tried to get the medication into her mouth.” When she tried to sit up, Laird allegedly used her knee to hold the victim down, and proceeded to throw water in her face. Laird then “grabbed the resident’s breast and squeezed it tightly, causing a noticeable bruise.”

According to, Laird’s lawyer indicated that if the victim’s medical records show signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, they could be helpful in Laird’s defense to prove that the victim had been aggressive. And these questions of mental health might extend to the victim’s husband, as well. Laird and her attorney indicated that the husband has a history of violence, and they claim that he might have caused the bruising on the victim.

Judge Patricia Riepel granted Laird’s request for access to the victim’s medical records, explaining that this kind of information is essential to provide at this stage of a case, since both parties are still in discovery.

If you are concerned about an elderly loved one’s safety in a California nursing home or long-term care facility, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney today.

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