Lawsuit seeks funds for Roberts' medical care
July 27, 2011 - As Oxford resident Megan Roberts clings to life in hospice, one of her family members last week initiated a lawsuit to secure funds to finance her medical care.
|Oxford resident Megan Roberts, 20, is currently in hospice care as a result of the severe injuries she sustained when her father allegedly beat her with a baseball bat as she slept on the morning of May 9. Photo courtesy of www.megansteam.com. (click for larger version)|
Filed by Sandra Bucklin, who is Roberts' aunt and duly appointed guardian, the civil suit is seeking damages from the man who is allegedly responsible for Roberts' condition – her father, Robert Brian Kelly.
Kelly, 52, of Oxford, is accused of bludgeoning his 20-year-old daughter with an aluminum baseball bat as she slept on the morning of May 9. Shortly after the incident, he turned himself in at the Oxford Village Police station, where officers said he confessed to the alleged beating.
The lawsuit stated that Kelly "repeatedly" beat Roberts "in her face and on her head until she was no longer recognizable."
"It's just a very tragic and puzzling situation," said Steve Weiss, the Bloomfield Hills attorney who's representing Bucklin. "It's really unfortunate that someone with such a promising life ahead of her met this fate from a family member."
At the time of her alleged assault, Roberts was studying business at Oakland Community College "with an eye toward a successful career, a happy family, and of course, a large beach house in Florida," according to www.megansteam.com, a website set up to offer Roberts both moral and financial support.
Weiss, who's been practicing law for 31 years, said he's "seen situations from time to time where one family member's harmed another, but I can't ever remember one that had this kind of profile."
Charged with assault with intent to murder, Kelly's currently lodged in the Oakland County Jail in lieu of posting a $2 million bond. A preliminary examination and competency hearing for Kelly will take place Friday, July 29 in Rochester Hills 52-3 District Court before Judge Lisa Asadoorian.
During Kelly's last court appearance in May, Asadoorian granted the defense's motion to have him examined at the state's Center for Forensic Psychiatry to determine if he's competent to stand trial and criminally responsible for his actions.
His defense attorney at the time, James L. Galen, Jr., told this reporter that he believes Kelly's "got some mental health problems" and "something snapped."
"I'm not sure it's psychiatric; it's possible it might be medical. I don't know . . . I believe it could be either mental or physical," Galen told this reporter back in May. "I've been doing my job for 21 years . . . and I believe the man's got something wrong with him."
Galen has since resigned from the case.
Kelly is now represented by Sanford Schulman, an attorney based in Detroit.
As a result of the alleged beating, the suit stated that Roberts, a 2009 graduate of Oxford High School, suffered, among other things, "a traumatic brain injury leaving her in a coma, requiring mechanical ventilation and tube feeding."
"A life care plan to provide for Megan's future medical and health needs has been proposed and/or established that will cost in excess of $500,000 per year," according to the lawsuit.
"In light of the traumatic brain injury suffered by Megan and the likely need for lifelong follow-up care and rehabilitation that she will require, it is imperative that Megan have access to the maximum financial resources available, including a substantial award of damages in her favor and against (Kelly) in this action."
Weiss indicated the complaint was written prior to Roberts being taken off the ventilator and placed in hospice care.
"The suit was originally drafted before her status had declined," he said. "The immediate concern at the time was to try to determine if there was a means from him, her father, to help pay for all the medical care that was going to be anticipated."
"If she dies, then the case will be converted into a wrongful death lawsuit and the focus will change from medical expenses to the losses suffered by her family members," Weiss noted.
Should Roberts continue to live and the suit is successful, the damages could be used to pay both her past and future medical expenses.
Weiss did not know how much has been spent on Roberts' care thus far.
"I assume it's a large figure," he said. "She's been hospitalized continuously since this happened."
Donations to help pay for Roberts' various expenses can be made on-line at www.megansteam.com.
The suit claimed that Kelly "inherited a substantial sum of money," but exactly how much is available hasn't been determined.
"The only thing we have heard is the quote from his attorney at the time, who said that he had inherited over $1 million from his mother," Weiss said. "We haven't had the opportunity to discover what he actually inherited or whether anything is left of that . . . The information I've heard is (the inheritance was from) approximately six years ago, but I don't know for certain."
In order to prevent Kelly from "transferring or disposing of" his money, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Colleen O'Brien issued a temporary restraining order July 21.
A hearing was ordered for Aug. 3 at which time Kelly or his attorney must show cause, if any, as to why a preliminary injunction should not be issued that would prevent Kelly from transferring or disposing of his funds.
The suit accuses Kelly of battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The count of negligence stems from the fact that Kelly, according to the suit, was suffering from a mental condition for which he failed and/or refused to receive medical treatment.
"(Kelly) had a duty to seek health care assistance, follow physician instructions and take all reasonable necessary steps to prevent any perceived or known mental health condition from posing a danger to others, including but not limited to family members such as Megan," according to the suit. "(Kelly) breached the foregoing duty by failing and/or refusing to seek and/or follow such medical care."
As a result of this alleged negligence, the suit stated Kelly was "left in a state of mind that caused or substantially contributed to his decision to beat Megan."
Prior to the alleged attack, the suit stated Kelly "had been prescribed and/or taken medication to help control a possible mental or emotional condition."
In the 30 days prior to the alleged attack, the lawsuit indicated that Kelly twice attempted to commit suicide.
Kelly's background includes approximately 25 years as a private practice psychologist, two master's degrees from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, and a bachelor's degree from U-M.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.