More lawsuits in works against Riems

SANDUSKY More lawsuits will be filed within the next few days accusing a former night-shift nurse of
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

More lawsuits will be filed within the next few days accusing a former night-shift nurse of abusing patients at a nursing home, an attorney said Tuesday.

The first lawsuit, filed by two brothers, says the nurse, John R. Riems, physically and mentally abused their father.

So far, Riems has been accused of raping one resident, a partially paralyzed man who is also blind.

James and Joseph Bilgen filed the first lawsuit against Riems on Friday. The brothers said they were not aware of any abuse until Riems was charged two weeks ago.

Five more families intend to file lawsuits against Riems, said Dennis Murray, a Sandusky attorney whose firm handled the first suit.

The victims are all elderly and have memory problems, Murray said.

Riems, 49, told investigators following his arrest that he abused almost 100 patients since the 1980s, but he could remember specific information on only about two dozen, police said.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and gross sexual imposition. He remains in jail in this Lake Erie city about midway between Toledo and Cleveland.

So far, authorities say they have found that 14 patients were abused and they are looking into 10 other suspected assaults.

The first lawsuit filed in Erie County Common Pleas Court is seeking more than $175,000 in damages. The nursing home, Concord Care and Rehabilitation Center, also is listed as a defendant.

The nursing home should have been aware of the abuse and was negligent in hiring Riems, said James Murray, an attorney in the same firm as Dennis Murray. Riems had an easily discoverable history of patient abuse before Concord hired him, the lawsuit 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,'' James Murray said.

Debra Ifft, chief executive of Concord Health Care Inc., declined to comment.

Riems told police the pattern of abuse began shortly after his career began in 1985, authorities said. He has worked at 13 hospitals and nursing homes, all but one in northern Ohio.

The brothers who filed the lawsuit said their father, Vincent Bilgen, has been at the nursing home since 2005 and that he has suffered severe physical and emotional injuries.

''The family wants answers,'' James Murray said. ''They also want to do what they can to prevent this from occurring in the future to anyone else's family.''