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By Devin Rose
The family of an 80-year-old man who died of a head injury in what is being called a murder last week at an Oak Park nursing home plans to file a lawsuit against the facility in the next couple of weeks, according to an attorney representing them. The law firm has handled several other legal claims against the nursing home's owners, another attorney with the firm said.
Mike Bonamarte, of the Chicago firm Levin & Perconti, confirmed Tuesday that the family of Anibal Calderon will file suit against Oak Park Healthcare, 625 N. Harlem Ave. Calderon died Feb. 14 of cerebral cranial hemorrhaging due to blunt force trauma, according to Oak Park police. He was a patient in the facility's Alzheimer/dementia ward. A 66-year-old patient in the same ward is believed to be involved in his death, which was ruled a homicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
According to his family, Calderon "had some prior verbal altercations" with another resident, Bonamarte said. He couldn't confirm the 66-year-old man was the same one, but "we have reason to believe it may have been." Bonamarte said the other resident struck Calderon, and trauma from either the blow or the fall caused the brain injury.
Oak Park Police Commander LaDon Reynolds said the 66-year-old has a criminal history, but could not give details because of the ongoing investigation.
Attorney John Perconti said his firm has handled several other cases against Oak Park Healthcare, as well as claims against its owners, Sherwin Ray and Jakob Bakst. Ray and Bakst also reportedly own other nursing facilities. Perconti could not recall specifics, but estimated there were two pending cases from 2008 to 2009, possibly involving a facility in East Peoria.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health's website, both men are part owners of Prairie Village Healthcare Center in Jacksonville. In 2010, the local newspaper there reported they were named in a lawsuit that accused 21 people of contributing to the 2007 death of a 66-year-old woman who died after a fall.
A message for Bakst last week was not returned, and an attempt to reach him Monday was unsuccessful. Ray could not be reached for comment. Several attempts to reach the facility's administrator, Helen Lacek, were unsuccessful.
When reached by phone last week, Calderon's son, Robert, referred questions to Levin & Perconti. He was unavailable Tuesday morning.
Complaints about Oak Park Healthcare to the Illinois Department of Public Health have been consistent since 2001, according to the department's website. Department records show the last complaint investigation survey—which is sparked by a citizen complaint and results in a facility inspection—was completed Nov. 29.
Before Calderon's death, IDPH spokesperson Melaney Arnold said the facility corrected all deficiencies listed in previous complaint investigation surveys. Previous complaints included verbal mistreatment of a patient by an employee, unclean conditions at the facility, failure to follow infection control procedures, and inadequate supervision of patients, among others.
The facility has consistently received one-star ratings on a five-point scale from a federal agency which rates nursing facilities.
However, Meyer Magence, who is listed as the agent of Oak Park Healthcare Center, LLC, called incidents from the early 2000s "ancient history."
"Anything can happen at any time," he said. "No nursing home has 1-to-1 care."
IDPH records from 2010 show the facility has 204 beds and 157 residents. The facility has been fined thousands of dollars at least a handful of times since 2001. In one incident, it took 75 minutes for a resident's seizures to be controlled by paramedics. In another, a drunk resident allegedly sexually assaulted another resident.
Separate investigations by Oak Park police, IDPH and Levin & Perconti are continuing.