Fragile: An update on Jillian Groh

Posted: Monday, September 30th 2013 at 12:10 PM

Published in the 5280 Denver Magazine September 27, 2013. Reproduced with permission of Dr. Frances Hill, HRM faculty.

Illustrations by Owen Freeman | By: Chris Outcalt | Issue: October 2013 | Tags: Westin Hotel, Jillian Groh

When Jillian Groh (2006) checked in to the downtown Westin Hotel one cold night almost seven years ago, everything felt certain. Then things changed forever...

Read the full online article on 5280 Denver Magazine HERE.

Excerpts from the article:

"...The car was traveling at least 60 miles per hour when Jacquelyn noticed what looked like brake lights in the distance. They approached so quickly it was almost as if the car was parked in the right lane. “Angela,” Jacquelyn said. “Are you going to stop?”

...At the very moment the police officer informed Bill his daughter had been in an accident, doctors were operating on Jill almost 850 miles away in an Aurora emergency room. The Grohs felt numb. Their son, George, put them on the next plane to Denver, and within a few hours of hearing the news, Bill and Janelle walked into the Aurora Medical Center. What faced them was the kind of scene parents’ nightmares are made of: Jill was in a hospital bed, bandaged from head to toe, her eyes shut. As bad as it looked, the Grohs couldn’t see the worst of it. Doctors had removed part of Jill’s skull due to the swelling in her brain. She was battling for her life..."

...A few years after the accident, the Grohs decided to care for their daughter themselves at home. They eventually moved into a house in Scottsdale their son owned and fixed it up so it was wheelchair-friendly.

...The Grohs do everything for their daughter—feed her, change her, brush her teeth. Jill still has the feeding tube in her stomach. Three times a day, Janelle pours a bottle of a nutrient-dense liquid called Compleat into a large syringe and injects the liquid into the tube. There’s a medicine pouch the size of a hockey puck underneath the skin near Jill’s belly button, which dispenses medicine throughout her broken body. Once a week, Janelle takes Jill to a physical therapy appointment at which occupational therapists try to loosen Jill’s body by stretching her limbs and placing Jill in a contraption that allows her to stand. Between insurance coverage and caring for Jill themselves, the Grohs have made things work financially, but it has been difficult. After the accident, Janelle went back to work a few days a week. The Grohs worry about what will happen when they’re gone. Who will take care of Jill? How will the family afford to provide her with the type of support she needs? 

...When the Grohs need to move Jill from her room, they use a lifting machine and a series of harnesses to pick her up. She hangs heavy and helpless as they transport her to the couch in the living room or to her wheelchair. Though Jill may never be fully responsive, the Grohs say she has perked up since coming home. One day Janelle was talking to her daughter, and Jill let out what sounded to Janelle like a little laugh. It was the first time in years Janelle had heard Jill’s voice. 

...The news came in late March 2013, 24 days after the sixth anniversary of Jill’s accident. The Court of Appeals reversed its decision; this time, it was 2-1 in favor of the Grohs. The judges saw the case as potentially having far-reaching implications in Colorado and beyond. The majority opinion stated: “This personal injury action presents an issue of first impression in Colorado: whether a hotel’s duty of care to a guest requires that, in lawfully evicting the guest, the hotel act reasonably. We conclude that a hotel must evict a guest in a reasonable manner, which precludes ejecting a guest into foreseeably dangerous circumstances resulting from either the guest’s condition or the environment. We further conclude that here a reasonable jury could find a breach of this duty on the present record.”

...The Grohs’ victory doesn’t ensure a straight shot to a trial; it’s one more step in a seemingly endless ladder of appeals.

...If the court does decide to hear Groh v. Westin, it could be months before arguments are presented and then several months more before a decision. Conversely, if the court doesn’t take the case, the whole thing would head back to the District Court level and be scheduled for trial—which could take at least six months and more likely a year. If that happens, three years of appeals will have been lost to not-so-summary judgment, only for things to return to where they were in 2010.

...The Grohs can’t forget the way Westin employees treated their daughter and her friends that night. Part of them, though, needs to move on, and in some ways they have; they are too consumed with caring for their daughter to closely follow a convoluted legal battle. And, yet, it is the very same legal system that may offer the Grohs their best chance of closure. People have long found a sense of finality in being heard by a jury of peers, and Bill and Janelle believe they could find this, too. But they have already lost six years to the courts—and could easily lose more.

Categories: jillian groh westin hotel alumni update 2013