Attorney wins $9.5M for family of man who died in rehab hospital

An Indiana attorney has won what he claims is a record amount from a wrongful death lawsuit as a Lake County jury Friday awarded the family of a man who died in a rehabilitation hospital $9.5 million.

Joe Lowery, 49, was admitted to Vibra Hospital of Northwest Indiana on Dec. 1, 2011, after spending time at Franciscan St. Anthony Hospital in Crown Point for pneumonia and infection symptoms. He was supposed to be at Vibra for 10 days and then released, Lowery died Dec. 9.

Lowery’s family sued Vibra in Lake County Circuit Court, claiming the hospital failed to meet a reasonable standard of care and nurse Citiria Porter failed to monitor and properly document Lowery’s condition. Lowery weighed 378 pounds and was on disability at the time.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen admitted that the pecuniary damages would not be much, but argued that Lowery was a great human being and that damages should be awarded based on the loss of love and affection inflicted on his family.

“The human loss here was very significant,” Allen said. “The love and care and affection for …his wife’s children, was really quite invaluable and that makes this verdict different.”

Allen said Lowery was a “delightful person” who would “give you the shirt off his back.” He said Lowery would shovel neighbors’ walks and had fixed a neighbor’s furnace. Allen described him as a great father to the three children his wife Karen had when they were married six years ago.

“I said something similar to this to the jury. All men are created equal,” Allen said. “And if a man dies who made a million dollars a day or a week or whatever it is in a wrongful death suit, well the pecuniary damages on that will be huge. This guy’s in a top one-tenth of one percent in terms of wealth. But I think Joe was in the top one-tenth of one percent in terms of being a human being. He was the epitome of a Christian person.”

Allen suggested the jury award a verdict of between $9 and $10 million, which he said was “supported by the evidence” because Lowery was a remarkable man.

Vibra’s attorney, Joseph Stalmack, did not respond to a message by IL deadline.

Allen believes it is a record verdict in a wrongful death suit because he couldn’t find any amounts higher in the Indiana Jury Verdict Reporter.

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