Nursing home owner hangs it up, retires
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
Oct. 6, 2002
Citing a lack of confidence in Mississippi's elected officials to pass meaningful tort reform legislation, Meridian businessman Guy Howard has sold his nursing home and moved out of state.
Howard owned Benchmark Health Care in Marion. Three wrongful death lawsuits were filed against the nursing home in just over a year by Wilkes &McHugh of Tampa, Fla.
The law firm specializes in nursing home litigation and has won record-breaking awards throughout the Southeast. In an interview last year, founding partner Jim Wilkes said he had targeted Mississippi as his next expansion area.
Howard, born and raised in Meridian, said in a telephone interview Saturday he didn't see any choice.
The financial liability attached to the three lawsuits filed against Benchmark follows Howard into retirement. The first is scheduled for trial Dec. 9.
New owner, clean slate
Paulette Butler of Morton bought the facility, now called Guardian Angel Healthcare.
The new administrator is Jim Myrick of Jackson. Myrick said Butler owns several nursing homes around the state, and Guardian Angel Hospice in Meridian.
Myrick says he is a "transition guy" for medical and quasi-medical businesses and has maintained a nursing home administrator's license in Mississippi and Louisiana since 1990.
He drives back and forth from Jackson every day, and sees his role as temporary while he trains a licensed nurse who has been employed at Benchmark for a number of years to take his place.
The staff, Myrick said, has not changed and it was Guy and Joyce Howard who recommended him to the new owner.
Myrick says he is not concerned about lawsuits, but Mississippi's legal environment can be distracting.
Fast-food robberies: The second of two young men indicted by a Lauderdale County grand jury in March for multiple counts of armed robbery has been sentenced in Circuit Court. The two men worked as a team; their victims were mostly fast-food delivery people.
Phillip Charles Todd received a 20-year sentence, with five years suspended, in September. His co-defendant, Michael Amos Carr, received an identical sentence this week.
Amtrak lawsuit: A lawsuit filed by the engineer of an Amtrak passenger train that collided with an 18-wheeler at a crossing on Marion-Russell Road has been settled. The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday.
The collision occurred Dec. 10, 1999.
The driver of the truck, Delbert Bissell, died.
The engineer, Harry Miller, said he sustained injuries to his lungs, lower back and hips. Miller filed suit against: 1) Amtrak for allowing him to operate his train in unsafe conditions; 2) Norfolk Southern for not making the crossing safe; and 3) Swift Transportation Co., Bissell's former employer, because he crossed the tracks in violation of the company's driving rules.
The amount of the settlement is unlikely to be released into the public record.
Escapee: Finally, Derrick L. Houston had also been scheduled to go to trial Monday for escaping from the Lauderdale County jail.
Houston was originally charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault in March 2001 after a clerk at Little Joe's Package Store identified him in a photo line-up as the man who attacked and robbed her.
He escaped in April 2001, but was eventually caught in DeKalb County, Ga. His "escapade" added another year to the sentence he was already serving.