Switch Hitter | News | Denver | Denver Westword | The Leading Independent News Source in Denver, Colorado

Switch Hitter

Trapped inside a place where people come to die, John Gordy waits and watches. His athletic six-foot-five-inch frame is dead weight. Gordy has just enough use of his contorted right hand to control his electric wheelchair. The slender black man in his early forties is handsome despite his cracked front...
Share this:
Trapped inside a place where people come to die, John Gordy waits and watches. His athletic six-foot-five-inch frame is dead weight. Gordy has just enough use of his contorted right hand to control his electric wheelchair. The slender black man in his early forties is handsome despite his cracked front teeth, remnants of an injury he received while living at the Red Rocks Healthcare Center. All around him, Gordy sees people waiting for death. All he wants is to make it out alive.

Gordy wasn't always paralyzed. In August 2000, he was riding his bike and fell headfirst over the handlebars into a shallow pond. The accident cost him the use of his arms and legs.

After his fall, Gordy was hospitalized and spent some time in rehabilitation. His girlfriend tried to care for him, but it was too much pressure, and she abandoned him. He had no family members who were able to help him full-time, and no money to afford in-home assistance, so he was left to find a nursing home that would accept his Medicaid coverage. In 2002 he was admitted to the Red Rocks facility on East Jewell Avenue. Right away, things started going wrong. Though Red Rocks' advertising promised excellence in wound care, Gordy felt like he had to train every new aide who walked into his room. And because of constant turnover, there were many. An ulcer on his foot was ignored to the point of needing surgery. Twice. He almost died after being given the wrong antibiotic. He was forced to lie helpless, despite his protests, as a hot towel scalded the flesh of his chest, leaving him with second-degree burns -- an attempt to warm him when the heat at the facility was broken. But nothing was as bad as the nighttime. Gordy's call light was his only defense in an emergency, but it took aides hours to answer. One night he was left near the side of his bed, with the bed rail down. As he felt himself sliding toward the edge, he yelled out for help, knowing it would only be a matter of time before he fell. He screamed all night, but no one came. At the 6 a.m. shift change, someone finally checked on him; just as the aide entered the room, Gordy crashed off the bed and landed on his face, smashing his teeth.

It was an employee of the non-profit Denver Regional Council of Governments ombudsman program who finally put Gordy in contact with a lawyer. As an advocate for nursing-home residents, she frequented Red Rocks. When she discovered Gordy's suffering, she called the best nursing-home malpractice attorney she knew, asking if he would meet with Gordy and his younger brother, Stevie. "I'm going to help you, John," the woman told Gordy. "You've been through enough."

"I could ask Jesus," Jerome "Jay" Reinan says as he motions toward the hot-pink plastic statue standing on his desk. The Messiah functions like a Magic 8 Ball for Reinan, one he regularly calls upon for comic guidance. "I've got the wind-up nun, too. There's a lawyer who used to be in this office who's an ex-nun. Somebody gave that to me because I had a case against her when I was doing defense work."

The Denver lawyer, who spends his days fighting for abused and neglected clients such as John Gordy, wasn't always on the side of right. He used to work for what he calls "the dark side," defending corporate nursing homes against such claims. "I was probably one of the primary nursing-home defense lawyers in the state before I switched over," he says matter-of-factly. "I think I tried several at a time when no one else was trying nursing-home cases." Reinan fumbles through the piles of books and papers haphazardly strewn about his corner office in the Highland neighborhood, looking for an old copy of Newsweek, a relic from his past life. "God, that was '98. Holy shit. Time flies. Look at my bad quote in there."

Reinan opens the magazine to a story on the rising number of nursing-home suits across the country. "What's going on?" the story asks, after the author has listed record verdicts and informed readers that the first-ever class-action lawsuit against a nursing-home chain will begin in Denver the following year. Reinan was defending that company -- the same one he's now suing for Gordy.

"Plaintiff lawyers, who are flocking to the field, say the suits reflect shoddy care, a judgment rejected by the industry. But both sides agree that some aging baby boomers -- guilty about their parents' living in nursing homes and worried that they will be next -- seem quicker to sue, and jurors seem more willing to dish out big verdicts. 'There are a lot of families out there who are trying to project their own guilt onto nursing homes,' says Jerome Reinan, a Denver defense lawyer."

Reinan's callous lawyering didn't stem from a family of litigators. He's the son of a Lutheran Brotherhood insurance salesman, and he grew up in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, a community his father referred to as a "Republican oasis amidst a DFL [Democratic-Farmer-Labor party] desert." His was a second-generation immigrant family of Norwegians, and the young Reinan had much nobler ambitions than practicing law.

When he visited his grandparents on their farm in Blanchard, North Dakota, his grandfather would take him into town to get the mail. Next to the general store/post office was the mechanic shop, which was run by a fellow named Wally. "Wally, I always thought, was the smartest man I ever met because he could start a car with a screwdriver. I would sit there for hours watching Wally work on cars. Of course, at that time I didn't know that Wally was a big fan of Old Milwaukee. I'm sure he was pretty good and juiced by two in the afternoon, but he was just the nicest guy ever. He wore one of those little hats like Goober on The Andy Griffith Show, really a bizarre-looking hat. I could never figure out why his hat didn't have a brim, so I asked him. He said if you go under the car, the brim knocks the hat off. Very clever. So I wanted to be a mechanic."

When Reinan was ten, he came home from school one afternoon and saw his mother suddenly collapse and start vomiting as she was bringing in groceries from the car. He got her into the house and called 911. He watched as paramedics loaded her into the ambulance. It was the last time he saw his mother alive. She died of a brain aneurysm.

Within a year, his father had remarried, and by the time Reinan was thirteen, the family had moved to the Minneapolis area. The transition was hard on him, so when he was fifteen, his father let him return to Otter Tail County to live with family friends. "I didn't get along very well with my stepmother, and I think my parents saw that, or at least my dad saw that, and he thought it probably would be best for me if I stayed someplace where I knew everybody."

While Reinan was still in high school, his dad and stepmother left Minneapolis for Evergreen, Colorado. They bought Larry Flynt's house, which he was selling because a gunshot wound had paralyzed him and he could no longer use the stairs. "I have on my wall at home the deed of trust from Hustler Magazine Inc. to Jerome M. Reinan, which is also my father's name," he says. "I don't think my father even knew who Larry Flynt was."

By the time high school graduation approached, in 1982, Reinan was set on being a college man. He was going to follow in his two older brothers' footsteps and live a life of atheism and pot smoking at St. Olaf College, where his mother had also attended. He was already registered when his dad was appointed to the board of trustees for the North Dakota State University Development Foundation and forced his son to go there. Reinan ended up enjoying Fargo and even ran for mayor as a for-credit statistics project, analyzing how much money each candidate paid per vote. He lost, but not by as big of a margin as he should have, considering he only spent $150. The political-science major had considered law school, but that dream was crushed by his NDSU advisor, who told him, "One thing I know for sure is, you're never going to be a lawyer."

After graduation, Reinan moved to Minneapolis to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales, something he thought would be lucrative. First he crashed on a friend's floor while working at the Redken factory screwing caps on to shampoo bottles. Next it was loading paper onto presses. When he finally scored his first job as a pharmaceutical sales rep, he got a company car, an expense account and $25,000 a year. "I was high on the hog with that one," he says.

But after a few years, he grew to hate what he did: "I felt like basically my job was delivering pizzas to doctors, taking them to dinner, taking them golfing or sending them to Hawaii to some pseudo-symposium on some drug that we were selling, and I just felt like a whore."

When Reinan told his father, who was still living in Colorado, that he wanted to try something new, his father offered to help pay his way through law school if he went to the University of Denver. It was a no-brainer, and when he graduated in 1992, he sent his former NDSU advisor an announcement.

Reinan interned with the Boulder district attorney while in school, but there were no openings when he began to consider his post-graduate job options, and he decided that malpractice work might fit with his pharmaceuticals background. He got the first and only job he applied for: associate at the Denver firm of Gallo & Godfrey.

Partner Brett Godfrey is a boisterous military man who equates the courtroom with the battlefield. He doesn't train young men and women to be lawyers; he turns them into "courtroom warriors."

"I didn't go to law school to be a claims adjuster or to settle lawsuits," says Godfrey, who now has a new practice, Godfrey & Lapuyade PC. "We at this firm have developed a reputation as being more willing or more zealous about the trial process than most defense firms."

Reinan fit right in.

"One of the things that Jay did early on that made me understand his potential was to find creative approaches to problem-solving that were utterly unique," Godfrey says. When he started, Reinan was assigned to a case in which Jeanne Grant, a resident of an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility outside of Colorado Springs, claimed that the night counselor, Harlow Brown, had forced a sexual relationship with her. "She claimed that he convinced her to perform oral sex on him," Reinan says.

Grant sued Brown and his employer, the Ark, but just before the trial was to start, Brown skipped town. That left Reinan, who was representing the Ark's insurance company, to try the case with an empty chair beside him. "It was kind of fun," he recalls. "I didn't have much to work with because I didn't have a client, so the best I could do was just cross-examine everybody who was up there."

Reinan took advantage of his jurors' conservative bent, pointing out that Grant was a married woman who had cheated on her husband with Brown. Then, in poring over Grant's medical and psychiatric history, he stumbled across her dental records. "I just kind of looked through them glancingly and saw that she had a hyperactive gag reflex, and in fact it was such a problem that her dentist had to give her something to numb her while he stuck instruments in her mouth." Reinan confronted Grant on the witness stand, telling her she couldn't have had the defendant's penis in her mouth because she couldn't put anything in her mouth without gagging. "It may be distasteful, but it's relevant," he says. The judge agreed, and the jury ultimately decided with his client.

But despite such courtroom successes, there were early signs that defense work didn't suit Reinan. He didn't like not being able to choose cases, and he hated that clients were billed on an hourly basis. "You have to keep track of every minute," he says. "If I was on a phone call with a client, I would have to have a piece of paper or a computer program where I kept track of every second I was talking to that person, and it drove me nuts."

In 1994, Reinan and Godfrey's partner, James Gallo, split from the firm to form Gallo & Reinan. Reinan still thought his future was in defense work, and he was proud to tell people that he didn't sue doctors, he defended them.

It wasn't until 1996 that Reinan took the case that would end his career in nursing-home defense. It started with the families of four residents of Cedars Health Care Center in Lakewood but would grow to include everyone who had lived there between 1993 and 1998, nearly 200 people. During the course of the litigation, the nursing home's owner went through a series of mergers to create Mariner Post-Acute Network. The sheer size of the case was overwhelming, and it absorbed almost all of Reinan's efforts as well as that of one of his partners and two associates. But in the midst of the massive undertaking, Mariner stopped paying its legal bills -- $250,000 worth. (The company would file for bankruptcy in 2000 and emerge as Mariner Health Care Inc. in 2002.) "The mentality you get into on the defense side is, if you have one big client, you're going to kiss that client's butt," Reinan says. "Even if they're not paying the bills on time or they're cutting your bills back, you just have to take it."

But Reinan didn't want to take it anymore. He knew if he was ever going to switch sides and represent people injured by nursing homes, the time was right. His five-year marriage had ended in 1995, and he didn't have kids, so he could afford to wait for plaintiffs' referrals to trickle in as he got started. Reinan fired Mariner and demanded payment for what he was owed. His partners protested, but he told them it was his client, his decision. Mariner eventually paid, but the partners split, and Reinan started his own practice in October 1999.

"I wasn't having fun practicing law. Coming to work was drudgery," Reinan says. "It was such a big case, and it just kind of got to me that I don't want to be doing nursing-home work. It was a good living, but it wasn't something that I thought was going to be my future twenty years from now. I just had this thought that I wasn't going to grow old representing nursing homes. I wasn't going to let myself do that."

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Jay Reinan was enjoying oysters at the LoDo Jax when he got sucked into a conversation. "Oh, are you a lawyer or something?" a woman queried, noticing his suit. When he confirmed her assumption, she asked him what kind of law he practiced. Upon hearing "malpractice," she told him she was an insurance claims adjuster. "I just think what you do is disgusting," she said.

"Well, you're entitled to that opinion," Reinan began, "but I've had a lot of clients who thought that what I did was disgusting until it happened to them. A nursing home abuses and neglects them, then treats them like crap, and they get so mad that they hire a lawyer, and they figure out what I actually do for a living. I prevent malpractice from happening in the future. I regulate the industry. I create an incentive for nursing homes and doctors and hospitals to do better work, and the government doesn't do that for you. The Board of Medical Examiners does not prevent bad doctors from practicing; lawyers do. The health department does not prevent bad nursing homes from killing little old ladies. Lawyers do. So, if you eliminate me, wait thirty years and see what happens to you."

What a difference five years makes.

One of the first steps Reinan took in starting his own firm in 1999 was to visit Kathleen Mullen, a well-respected nun turned plaintiffs' attorney against whom he'd faced off in court many times. "Kathleen is one of the fiercest competitors there is," Reinan says. "She is one of the last pure advocates. She is not motivated by anything other than the cause that she's representing."

Mullen worked in an old house on Eighth Avenue and Clarkson Street that she shared with attorney John Holland, with whom she also occasionally tried cases. When Reinan went to talk to them about his plan to switch sides, he also asked them if he could rent office space. Holland was skeptical at first, but he knew Reinan was talented, and he seemed sincere. "Far be it from me, a plaintiffs' lawyer, to discourage someone who wants to switch sides," says Holland, who is the father of Westword staff writer Adam Cayton-Holland. "Nursing homes need to be sued, in my view, and there aren't enough people doing it. And how could you say no to someone with so much humor? Mostly, it's hard to dislike Jay Reinan."

Later that year, Mullen and Holland began funneling clients to Reinan. They had reached settlements with O'Hara Regional Center for Rehabilitation totaling $37 million on behalf of 23 neglected residents, and as additional O'Hara plaintiffs surfaced, they referred them to their new officemate.

But just because cases were flowing in didn't mean switching roles was easy. Reinan had to change the way he practiced law. As a defense attorney, he was a "courtroom warrior," but now he had to learn to negotiate settlements, since the vast majority of lawsuits never make it to trial. "How do you call up the lawyer on the other side and convince him to pay x number of dollars for some dead guy that neither of you knew?" Reinan asks. "To put a value on a human life is a really difficult concept, and so what you have to do is sort of think about: If this were my dad and they were doing this to my dad, how mad would I be?" It didn't hurt that one of his first clients was a kind, witty auto mechanic named John Currin who had become a quadriplegic while under O'Hara's care. The nursing home had let a bedsore on his lower back grow to the size of a pie plate and deepen to the bone and rectum.

Despite such stories, Reinan found himself happier than he'd ever been practicing law. "I'm nothing more than a salesman, and I don't think you can sell shit unless you believe in it," he says.

He now works less, works when he wants to and makes more money. He took the entire month of February off to marry his second wife, Niki, in Cabo San Lucas, in front of seventy of their closest friends and relatives. Their three-week honeymoon took them to Frankfurt, Prague, Vienna, Barcelona and Paris. And though he's careful not to spend too much time away from his new wife, Reinan's schedule also affords him the chance to skip town for days at a time in pursuit of his other passion: cars.

A nondescript warehouse in the Cole neighborhood, not far from the old High Street Speakeasy, is where Reinan keeps his toys. If he includes the rides he keeps at the smaller garage next door, at home and at his lake house in Minnesota, his collection of classic cars and motorcycles is up to 42. His most recent addition is a black 1953 Mercedes 170 DS, a slick, tiny car that looks like it drove straight out of an old black-and-white movie. He flew to Helena, Montana, last month to pick it up and drive it back to Denver using biodiesel, his fuel of choice. "I don't have any show cars," he says. "It takes a different breed of person to buy cars only to look at."

He uses his '74 Pinzgauer, a Swiss military vehicle the size of a Hummer, for off-roading. His green Rolls-Royce, a '74 Silver Shadow, makes an excellent winter car, and he likes convertibles, such as his '36 Cadillac Roadster, in the summer. But some of his rarer finds are a challenge to drive around town, like the 1917 American LaFrance that resembles a tractor and has a lever for a break, or the '61 fire engine straight off the Paris, Kentucky, fleet, complete with siren, hose and ladder. "I was deprived of toys in my childhood, I guess," he jokes.

He regularly hosts drive-in movie nights in his garage, a chance to use his projector, popcorn machine, kegerator and bar. But in true attorney form, he posts large caution signs around the stairs, warning his drunk friends that the steps are uneven. He swears he won't go as far as making his guests sign releases, even though colleagues tell him he should.

Last year, Jay Reinan accepted a case against Red Rocks Healthcare Center for allowing resident Chris Tisserat to starve and dehydrate. But when he filed suit, he got an interesting call from Mariner Health Care Inc., Red Rocks' owner and the company he once represented. "I get a call from their national counsel saying Mariner's almost going bankrupt. They're running out of money and can't pay very much for this claim. 'You'd better take what I'm offering today because it may not be here tomorrow.'"

So he did. Reinan knew if he held out for more and the company filed for bankruptcy protection, his client might end up with nothing. His mistake in taking the bait didn't occur to him until months later.

In summer 2005, John Gordy's case against Red Rocks was referred to Reinan. It was exactly the type of case that Reinan prefers to take. Not only could he show what horrors Gordy had suffered, but records from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed a pattern of substandard care. Between 2002 and 2005, Red Rocks had been cited with seven deficiencies for failure to prevent or treat pressure sores, five deficiencies for failure to adequately maintain clinical records on residents, and four for failure to prevent falls. Across the state, nearly all of Mariner's thirty nursing homes were cited with serious deficiencies. Eleven were cited for pressure sores at a time when the company was promising superior wound prevention. In fact, the company had such a bad record that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had previously sued it for fraud because Mariner facilities hadn't provided the minimum standard of care required by Medicare and Medicaid.

In early 2002, Mariner paid $26 million in fines and entered a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of the Inspector General. A 47-page document specifies every care and accountability standard that Mariner facilities must meet if the company wants to keep its Medicare and Medicaid checks coming.

As Reinan prepared to file Gordy's case, he thought about his last settlement with Mariner. He assumed the company had managed to avoid bankruptcy, as he hadn't heard any more talk of an impending filing. He ran a simple Internet search in late 2005 to check the company's status and found that Mariner hadn't been paying creditors or even its own attorneys: Gulf South Medical Supply was suing Mariner for nearly $5 million it was owed for supplies, and Brunini, Grantham, Grower and Hewes PLLC, a defense firm in Mississippi that represented Mariner, was suing the company for nearly $1 million owed in legal bills. Reinan was glad he had fired Mariner as a client when they owed him only $250,000.

He also found that a group of real-estate investors had formed a company called National Senior Care Inc. in order to purchase the publicly traded Mariner Health Care Inc. The $1 billion deal that went through in December 2004 was a leveraged buyout, as NSC sold off much of Mariner's real-estate assets -- 180 facilities -- to finance the sale. Interestingly, the owners of the companies who bought the assets have ties to NSC, including Leonard Grunstein whose brother is NSC president Harry Grunstein. That sale left the now-privately owned Mariner -- which continued to operate under its own name -- a shell of its former self, worth only $5 million to $12 million, compared to its earlier billion-dollar valuation. Separating the real-estate holdings from the actual health-care operation had an upside for the company's new owners: It reduced their exposure to liability lawsuits, because such cases can only be filed against the company holding the license to provide care, and Mariner's post-sale bottom line looked too emaciated to afford big payouts.

When Reinan took a closer look at the ownership of Red Rocks Healthcare Center, he found a tangled web of companies. But as he traced back the licensure documents, he noticed that the same names kept reappearing: real-estate moguls Harry and Leonard Grunstein and Rubin and Avi Schron. "The land is owned by a company owned by these four guys, and the building is owned by another company owned by these four guys, and the staff is managed by a company that is owned by these four guys. Then there's layers of companies that lease the staff and the building to other companies owned by these four guys, and pretty soon you have something like literally ten or twelve companies that all have their little fingers in running Red Rocks Healthcare Center," he says.

"Why do they do that? It allows them to own all the assets that used to be Mariner, but at the same time avoid liability to the people they hurt, maim and kill at their facilities."

Last December, Reinan amended the complaint in the Gordy suit, adding all the specific companies involved and their individual owners. He also included that long list of defendants in a new lawsuit on behalf of Peggy Mussehl, whom he claimed was neglected at another Mariner facility, Fort Collins Health Care Center. In late January, Reinan got a call from Mariner's local attorney, a former colleague, assuring him that adding the additional companies and individuals as defendants would only complicate and drag out the case. It wasn't necessary, he explained, because Mariner had liability insurance.

Reinan agreed to dismiss the extra parties from the complaint, with a warning: "If I hear a whiff of evidence from anyone that Mariner doesn't have money, Mariner doesn't have insurance, I'm going to refile this thing pronto."

A month later, in March, Reinan got a letter in the mail from Martin Stein in New York, the same man who had urged him to settle the Tisserat suit: There are currently approximately 300 open claims against the Mariner entities, alleging injury and/or loss. These include many high exposure cases which are scheduled for trial over the next few months. With respect to almost all of these cases, including the above-captioned matter, there is no insurance available for the first $1 million of loss (including fees and expenses). This means that any judgment in such cases up to $1 million (less fees and expenses incurred) will have to be satisfied from the Mariner assets, if any, available at the time of judgment.

Under the circumstances, I hereby offer $35,000 to settle the [John Gordy] case on behalf of Mariner and its related entities.Š Finally, please be advised that on February 8 and 9, 2005, Mariner won three defense verdicts in professional liability cases, two in Florida and one in Texas.

Two days later, Reinan received the same form letter regarding the Mussehl case. As part of Colorado's tort reform in 1986, nursing homes and other medical facilities were required to obtain insurance as a trade-off for caps being set on awards. Colorado law now requires each nursing home to have at least $3 million in insurance, so Reinan requested the licensure information from the state health department. In the affidavits, signed in 2005, company officials had sworn that each facility had the necessary insurance.

"This is all sort of a new frontier, because I think we assumed up until recently that people would just follow the law and get insurance because they're required to," Reinan says. "For the first time, we're seeing people are now actually filing sworn affidavits with the health department saying that they have insurance. At the same time, their lawyer is sending letters out saying they don't. I never expected to see something like this."

Stein maintains that he has "never said that Mariner does not have insurance" and has "never sent a letter to any attorney on behalf of Mariner saying that Mariner doesn't have any insurance." When asked to clarify the content of the letter, he refused and hung up the phone. Attempts to contact Mariner's in-house counsel and Leonard Grunstein, who is named individually in Reinan's complaints, were unsuccessful. Thomas Quinn, an attorney who represents Mariner locally, did not return calls for comment.

Reinan suspects that the new owners are hoping trial lawyers will shy away from claims against Mariner once they find that there's no money and no insurance. Most attorneys would rather take cases against financially sound companies with whom they can settle quickly. "I've done the opposite," Reinan says. "Not just because I think it's right, but because this is the business I'm in. Mariner is the biggest player in the state, and if I'm not going to take Mariner cases, I've got to think about doing something else." In April, Reinan again amended his complaints against Mariner to add the individual owners and associated companies, then filed a new suit in federal court.

Reinan also sent letters to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Division of Insurance and the U.S. Office of the Inspector General detailing what he knew about Mariner's insurance situation and including copies of his letters from Stein and the affidavits submitted to the state health department. "Obviously, one of two things has happened," he wrote. "Either Mariner is employing fraudulent insurance-claims tactics by pretending it has no money in order [to] save on claims payments, or Mariner truly has no money and no insurance, and the affidavits issued by [company officials] are phony and fraudulent. In either case, the State of Colorado must investigate this matter." Ann Hause, director of the CDPHE's office of legal and regulatory affairs, says the complaint, though unusual, will be investigated: "We will likely be sending an inquiry out to facilities regarding the status of that insurance." An official with the state division of insurance said the agency does not comment on complaints received.

OIG spokesman Don White likewise would not say whether Reinan's claim would be investigated, but he did indicate that Mariner's Corporate Integrity Agreement, which is binding upon successors and requires that the company abide by the laws of the states in which it operates, is continually monitored by an attorney. A breach of that agreement could result in fines of up to $2,500 per day per violation. If Mariner were to breach the agreement with "repeated, systematic or flagrant" violations, the government can decide to exclude it from federal health-care programs, essentially putting the facilities out of business by cutting off Medicare and Medicaid funds.

If someone at the state doesn't do something soon, Reinan says he'll sue them, too. In the meantime, his strategy is to keep taking Mariner cases and filing them in different venues. "If I file enough of these, I'm going to get at least one judge who's going to be mad enough to undo what they're doing. The odds are with me. Sooner or later, with one of these cases, they're going to have to change the way they do business."

Attorney John Holland believes that Mariner will eventually learn not to underestimate Jay Reinan. "One lawyer treated Jay like he was a bus driver, and he has a tendency to drive the bus right into the middle of the road and show everybody what the bus looks like."

John Gordy now resides at Fort Collins Health Care Center, also owned by Mariner, since Jay Reinan advised him to leave the facility he was suing. The home seemed like a good fit because it's such a short drive from where his brother lives. Gordy has yet to be injured there, but he doesn't think the care is any better than that at Red Rocks. When Reinan came to see him last year and agreed to take his case, he told Gordy it could take years to reach a resolution. "I'm not giving up on him," Gordy says. "That was really nice of him to come."

So, Gordy waits. He savors the time between roommates and otherwise waits out their stays. When his last roommate died, Gordy had to wait nearly twenty hours for the coroner to come take the body away. Gordy waits for his two teenage sons, his little brother and his friends to visit. He occasionally smokes cigarettes to break up the waiting; it's an excuse to sit outside. While he waits, he prays that he won't get a sore that leads to amputation. He prays that he won't have a stroke or seizure over a weekend or at night, when no one is likely to rescue him. And he prays that all this waiting will pay off.

He's not clear on the ramifications his case could have on the nursing-home industry. He just knows he shouldn't have been treated the way he was, and he hopes the suit might improve the way elderly residents and quadriplegics like him are cared for. Of course, if he gets a settlement of any significance, Gordy's dream -- the thing he's really waiting for -- is the chance to have his own place again, to be able to afford a live-in aide, and to finally get some regular physical therapy. While he's waiting for that day, Gordy may apply to a different nursing home, one not owned by Mariner, but whether he's admitted depends on what is available under Medicaid. "It's hard," he says. "Some days I wish I was dead. Some days I'm happy to be aliveŠ I have a lot to live for."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. Your membership allows us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls. You can support us by joining as a member for as little as $1.