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August 09, 2001 - Rehabilitation Unit Innocent In Death

A jury of five men and seven women found in favor of Baptist Rehabilitation Institute on Tuesday after the two-day trial of a civil case filed over the 1998 death of Jess Paul Odom, a Pulaski County businessman credited as Maumelle's founder.

Odom's widow said that she left Odom for about 10 minutes in the care of a man she assumed was a hospital employee. The man, whom she said was wearing a white coat and name tag, was gone when she returned, and her husband had tipped back in his wheelchair and hit his head on the floor. He died of complications from that injury about two weeks later. A lawsuit filed by Odom's family alleged Baptist Rehabilitation Institute was negligent in its care of their 84-year-old father.

Donald Bacon, the attorney for Baptist Rehabilitation Institute and its insurer, Virginia Reciprocal Insurance, said there was nothing in Jess Odom's medical history to warn the staff members he might tip his wheelchair. He said that Baptist personnel didn't fall below the acceptable standard of care by failing to install anti-tipping bars on Odom's wheelchair.

Odom was a founder of National Investors Life Insurance Co. in Little Rock. The company grew to become Arkansas' second-largest life insurance company with branches in 17 states and London, England. He was also the owner of the Dogpatch U.S.A. theme park.

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