The male caregiver who drugged and raped an 89-year-old woman last year at a northern Minnesota senior home has agreed to a $10 million settlement in a lawsuit that arose from the incident.
In an unconventional twist, however, the millions of dollars in damages he would pay to the woman will effectively be wiped away if he does not repeat his violent behavior.
The convicted rapist, Andrew Merzwski, 30, will be required to pay the money only if he is convicted of another sexual crime or is found guilty or liable of abusing a vulnerable adult during the next 10 years, according to a settlement agreement reached in late March.
Merzwski was sentenced in January to a 53-month prison term after pleading guilty to the rape.
“This is a clarion call to other wrongdoers that you will not get away with this kind of abuse of vulnerable adults without paying a serious price,” said Mark Kosieradzki, a lawyer representing the rape survivor.
The settlement brings to a close an alarming case of elderly abuse that shone a light on the lack of regulatory oversight of assisted-living homes.
In early March, two legislators called on the Minnesota Department of Health to review the investigation it conducted last year into the circumstances surrounding the rape.
In January 2013, Merzwski, who was employed as a nursing assistant at the Edgewood Vista home in Hermantown, Minn., entered the room of the elderly resident, who was showing initial signs of dementia. After giving her medicine that he knew would impair her ability to think, Merzwski raped the resident in her bed, according to court documents. The next morning, the victim reported the incident to her daughter, who contacted police.
As part of the settlement agreement, Merzwski agreed to pay $1,063.80 in restitution to the survivor and to make a matching payment to the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), a nonprofit rape crisis center in Duluth.
Timothy Tripp, a Duluth attorney who represents Merzwski, said the $10 million settlement was “unpalatable at first” to his client until it became clear that the sum would be collected only if he violated the terms of the settlement.
“Obviously, it’s an enormous incentive to comply with the conditions,” Tripp said.