Suit filed against Concord Care, Riems

PERKINS TWP. Sons of a Concord Care and Rehabilitation Center resident have filed a lawsuit against
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

Sons of a Concord Care and Rehabilitation Center resident have filed a lawsuit against the nursing home and former employee John R. Riems, claiming the nurse physically and mentally abused their father.

Brothers James and Joseph Bilgen of Sandusky filed the lawsuit Friday in Erie County Common Pleas Court. The men are suing along with their father, Vincent Joseph Bilgen, for more than $175,000 in damages.

The elder Bilgen has resided at Concord Care since 2005. While staying at the nursing home Bilgen "was subject to severe physical and mental abuse perpetrated by.... Riems," according to court records.

James Murray, attorney for the Bilgen family, declined to comment further on the extent of the abuse. "I think that says it all at this juncture," he said.

Riems, 49, is charged with rape and gross sexual imposition. He is accused of sexually assaulting a 55-year-old blind and partially paralyzed male resident at Concord Care.

During questioning Riems recalled abusing nearly 100 patients during his 22-year career, and he is suspected of abusing at least 13 other residents at Concord Care alone, police said.

Riems remains at Erie County jail on $100,000 bond while he awaits an Erie County grand jury's decision on his case. Riems worked at Concord Care from September 2002 to January 2008, according to Perkins police.

The Bilgen family claims both Riems and the nursing home are liable for the abuse. The nursing home was negligent in hiring Riems, retaining him as an employee and supervising him. The home is also in violation of Ohio law protecting nursing home patients, the lawsuit states.

Riems "had an easily discoverable history of patient abuse while employed by businesses similar" to the nursing home, the lawsuit states. After receiving his nursing degree in 1985, Riems went on to work at 12 other facilities besides Concord Care, police said.

In addition, Concord Care must have been aware of the abuse, Murray said.

"It's hard to imagine that the behavior continued for years and years, and no one had an idea there might have been some patient abuse occurring," he said.

As a result of the abuse Vincent Bilgen has "suffered severe physical and emotional injuries, much of which will remain permanent," the lawsuit states.

The civil case was filed as a result of the recent criminal allegations against Riems, Murray said.

"The family was not aware of the abuse until Mr. Riems was charged criminally," he said. "Certainly they suspected that their loved one might be one of the abused."

James Bilgen declined comment on the lawsuit and messages left for Joseph Bilgen went not returned Monday.

"The family is, as you expect, extremely offended by Mr. Riems' conduct," Murray said. "The family wants answers. They also want to do what they can to prevent this from occurring in the future to anyone else's family."

Concord Care employees directed comment to their corporate office.

"I don't know anything about it yet," said Debra Ifft, chief executive officer of Concord Health Care, Inc., declining further comment on the lawsuit or the criminal charges against Riems.

Murray has also requested several documents from Concord Care, which 28 days to fulfill the request.

A trial by jury is requested.

Riems' attorney, Troy Wisehart, is out of town this week and could not be reached for comment on whether he would represent Riems in the civil matter in addition to his pending criminal case.