Defense: Plaintiff in it for money

Money is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the family of an elderly woman formerly of Los Osos who suffered a severe bedsore that required surgery, defense attorneys argued Friday.

Closing statements from the lawyers representing caregivers Jane and Edwin Ingan, Drs. Robert Schingler and Grace Crittenden, as well as a rebuttal on behalf of plaintiff Marian Eileen Kengel, concluded a San Luis Obispo Superior Court trial that began in July.

Kengel’s lawyers allege each defendant was negligent for prescribing the anti-psychotic drug Haldol — designed for treating schizophrenia and delirium — to her in 2007, when she was 94 and living at the Sunrise V elder-care center in Los Osos.

The drug’s side effects led to immobility, which caused the wound on her bottom, they say.

The Ingans — owners of Sunrise V — and Schingler also face additional claims, including elder abuse and battery. Each defendant has denied responsibility.

Defense lawyers noted that Kengel previously had been given Haldol by a physician at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

They also said that they believed money was at the heart of the plaintiff’s motivation in filing the lawsuit, and that their clients acted reasonably.

The amount awarded by the jury will depend on how it decides claims of intentional, malicious acts against Kengel.

Kengel’s lawyers claim the Ingans took her to Schingler as part of a conspiracy to chemically restrain her so she wouldn’t act out at Sunrise V.

Crittenden continued the Haldol that Schingler prescribed.

“The plaintiff wants you to believe that Haldol is some kind of devil drug,” said Howard Cho, representing the Ingans.

Cho said that his clients simply took her to the wrong doctor by mistake and argued that Kengel’s family was made aware that she was taken to Schingler shortly thereafter.

If Haldol didn’t seem right, then Crittenden likely would have pulled the prescription, Cho argued.

Cho said evidence shows that her son, Bill, took Kengel to her primary care physician, Crittenden, five days after seeing Schingler.

Also, Kengel’s family members, including her son and daughter, regularly visited her at Sunrise V and seemingly would have taken quick action if Kengel was “like a zombie” as the plaintiff claims, Cho said.

The bedsores were noticed in January 2008 before surgery was performed that same month.

Schingler’s lawyer, Brian Clausen, said his client’s prescribed dosage of Haldol was small compared to what other patients received.

He also noted that Crittenden also had prescribed anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa, which is intended to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“Has our society come to the point where we punish a doctor, a healer, for trying to do his job?” Clausen argued.

Crittenden’s lawyer, Mark Connely, said that Kengel’s family still seeks Crittenden’s medical attention now and that she acted reasonably.