North Andover attorney charged in hit-and-run crash

LAWRENCE — A North Andover attorney who denied he was driving his wife’s truck when it was in a serious hit and run accident, claimed he was having a “random hookup” with another woman at the time of the accident, police said.

Richard Heartquist, 42, who has a law office at 200 Sutton St., turned himself into police yesterday.

He was charged with obstruction of justice and leaving the scene of an accident which resulted in personal injury, police said. He was released on personal recognizance and is to be arraigned today.

Police said Heartquist was driving a white 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche when it struck a red 1985 Buick sedan at 354 Merrimack St. on Friday, Dec. 17. The Buick driver, Michael Baglieri, 35, of Methuen, suffered head and leg injuries in the 11:30 p.m. crash.

“Our investigation puts him behind the wheel,” Police Chief John Romero said yesterday, noting there were witnesses to the accident.

The Avalanche is registered to Heartquist’s wife, Allison Heartquist, Newburyport’s Ward 1 city councilor, who works full-time as executive assistant to Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer. The couple lives at 22 Reservation Terrace on the Newburyport side of Plum Island.

Detectives yesterday sought an arrest warrant for Heartquist, who was convicted of drunken driving in Newburyport in 2005. His Massachusetts drivers’ license expired in July, according to police reports.

He turned himself in at the Lawrence police station at 3:30 p.m.

The truck was impounded after the accident, and a search warrant was executed last Monday. Romero said items were seized from it and detectives are waiting for results of forensic tests.

In an interview the day after the accident, Heartquist told detectives he was not driving the Avalanche when it crashed, but instead having an hour-long tryst with a woman he met at the bar in Salvatore’s restaurant at 354 Merrimack St.

Around 10 p.m. Friday, Heartquist left his Sutton Street office and went to Salvatore’s “where he had a couple of beers,” he told detectives Thomas Burke and William Colantuoni. While at the bar, Heartquist said he met a woman named “Kathy” and he “described the encounter as a random hookup.” Kathy was 5 feet, 5 inches tall “with brown hair, well endowed and a little heavy,” according to the detectives’ report.

Heartquist told police he and Kathy left the bar together. He left the Avalanche running with the keys in it and then went to Kathy’s vehicle, which he described as a small SUV similar to a Toyota Rav4. Kathy drove to the “other end of the parking lot where they spent about an hour together,” Heartquist told the detectives.

Then the two “ended up taking off (in her car) to go get something to eat,” Heartquist told police. But when they drove to his nearby law office, Heartquist “decided to break off the encounter with the girl and call his brother for a ride,” according to the police report.

Burke asked for Heartquist’s brother’s name and telephone number “so we could corroborate his story.” But “Heartquist stated that he didn’t want to get his brother involved and no longer wanted to speak with us,” according to the report.

Before detectives left his home, Heartquist also asked if he needed to report the Avalanche stolen “since the car was already recovered.”

Burke told Heartquist if his car “had in fact been stolen” he would have to file a stolen vehicle report.

To date, Heartquist has not filed such a report.

Detectives noted that Heartquest had a large bruise on his right hand and “abrasion above his left eye which was shaded by the visor of his baseball cap.” However, detectives were unable to question him about the injuries because he abruptly ended the interview, according to the report.

When called immediately after the crash, Allison Heartquist told police her husband took her truck to a Christmas party that night. She said her husband had called her earlier in the evening and said “he’d be getting a ride home,” according to a police report.

When a police officer told her the truck was involved in the accident and the driver fled, Allison said, “Oh, no,” according to police.

She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Baglieri, the Buick driver, told police the Avalanche pulled out of the Riverwalk parking lot and crashed into him. The driver then fled toward the Merrimack River, prompting an intense but unsuccessful search of the area.

Baglieri said he blacked out upon impact. Police found him bleeding from his forehead and complaining of pain. A foreman for a tree service, Baglieri runs a bucket truck on a daily basis. The injuries he suffered in the accident put him out of work, however.


Nursing Home Negligence

Falls in Nursing Homes

Litigators who work with cases involving long term care know how significant the issue of falls can be. Falls are the leading cause of injury and death by injury in adults over 65. Approximately half of the 1.6 million nursing home residents in the U.S. fall each year, and a report by the Office of the Inspector General found that about 10% of Medicare skilled nursing residents experience a fall resulting in significant injury; and, more than 1/3 of hospital falls result in injury. In the rehab setting, rates are often higher – for example, fall rates among stroke patients have been shown to be very high. Immobility and falls can lead to poor outcomes.

Fear of falling is defined as a geriatric syndrome. It not only occurs in older adults who have fallen, but in those with impaired mobility and is associated with decreased physical ability and depression. Care of older adults requires that clinicians be aware of the myriad of issues related to falls including knowledge of this syndrome, increased risk and interventions needed to prevent injury related to falls.

Just about every resident in a long term care setting, including assisted living and sub-acute rehab, is at risk for falling. Between medications, functional and medical issues and advancing age, older adults in most settings are prone to falling.

There are well established standards of care related to fall prevention; but, as I continue to review records related to issues like falls, I am amazed at how often these basic standards are not being practiced. The basics of a fall prevention program include assessment and ongoing reassessment of risk, ensuring a safe environment, medication review, providing therapy as needed, individualized interventions, and staff education.

Basic nursing practice includes assessment, planning (Care plan), putting interventions in place and then evaluating outcomes to determine if those interventions are appropriate and effective. Assessment includes completing fall risk assessments on admission and then as needed. Very often, the fall risk assessments completed by nurses in LTC are inaccurate. The tools utilized in long term care typically include these risk factors: history of falling, use of ambulatory aids, gait/balance issues, medications, secondary diagnoses (i.e. diabetes) and mental status. Care planning is the next step in nursing care - it is the standard of care that as the resident’s status changes, assessments and care plans must be updated, and often, are not. For example, with each fall, there should be updates, or if there is a new diagnosis, i.e. stroke, or worsening dementia, updated interventions should be put into place, with ongoing evaluation of effectiveness.

Care planning and interventions very often are generic and not individualized. For example, a toileting schedule that includes only after meals and before bedtime may not be appropriate. If a resident has issues with constipation or incontinence, this may lead to the need for more frequent toileting to prevent falls. The “make certain call bell is within reach” for residents with dementia is an example of a generic intervention. Older adults with dementia may not recognize a call bell or remember to use it. The debate about use of bed and chair alarms go on – they are a part of an individualized care plan, not a solution to preventing falls. Often, I see delays in putting interventions in place, i.e. with the resident who is incontinent NOT being put on a toileting plan immediately. The other common issue I see when reviewing records is the lack of updating care plans as the resident’s status changes – with every fall, with worsening dementia, physical decline, or new medical diagnosis (i.e. Parkinsonism).

Nurses reviewing records need to pay attention to the MDS, risk assessments, care plans and Interdisciplinary notes with attention to where the standard of care is not being met.
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