A defamation case over a 2017 incident at Prairie Ridge Assisted Living in Beaver Dam reached a conclusion this week.
Owner Mike Eisenga of Columbus and his company Advantage Management were the plaintiffs in a defamation suit against four defendants who the suit claimed had made false statements to harm the reputation of the business. Former employees Nichole Terlisner, Elizabeth Kohlstedt, Cynthia Piggott and Alexis Berry entered into stipulated judgments that totaled $156,000 between them after being accused of making defamatory statements in the media and in social media.
Claims against ex-employees Patricia Fitzgerald and Charlotte Gambrell were dismissed.
The suit was sparked by an incident that led to a 911 call in March 2017. Terlisner told the Daily Citizen and a television station that she was left alone one night and had to call residents’ families to help put them to bed. She said she was later fired.
A staff dispute at Prairie Ridge Assisted Living, 212 E. Industrial Drive, Beaver Dam, resulted in a 911 call and some recent staff turnover.
In an apology letter to Eisenga, Terlisner recanted her statements about the facility being understaffed, writing that she was with a co-worker that night and that her conduct on the site was inappropriate and went against her own training. She wrote that she made false statements to the media and knew that they were not true when she made them.
“I take back all of the negative things I said about you and Prairie Ridge, and I will support you publicly in trying to clear your name and the name of Prairie Ridge,” Terlisner wrote in the letter to Eisenga. She was ordered to pay $100,000.
Eisenga noted family members were alarmed after Terlisner contacted them and police were called, but surveillance footage showed that there were other employees on site and Terlisner had not been left alone.
The owner of Prairie Ridge Assisted Living Facility has filed a defamation lawsuit against three former employees.
“I want to thank the residents and the families of residents at Prairie Ridge for their understanding through this process,” he said. “The staff that remains there are really top-notch people. Through this whole chaotic situation, the staff at Prairie Ridge went above and beyond to keep it successful. They really went the extra mile.”
Eisenga said he was happy with the judgment in the civil case.
“I hope the people involved in this learn something from it. I harbor no malice towards any of them,” he said. “I hope they can move on with their lives.”
Berry was ordered to pay $30,000. Kohlstedt and Piggott were together ordered to pay $26,000.