The Arkansas Times reported a jury in Arkansas returned a unanimous verdict finding that the Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had been negligent in the care and treatment of Martha Bull. Bull was admitted March 28, 2008 for 30 days of short term rehabilitation. During the night of April 6, 2008 she was in severe pain, sweating and unable to have a bowel movement. Nothing was done. The next shift, she continued to complain. A physician was finally called at 2:20 p.m. April 7. He ordered her transferred immediately to an emergency room. The director of nursing received the fax at 3:34 p.m., but was leaving for the day. The nursing director failed to properly communicate the order. No one saw the fax or was aware of it til after she was found dead. Bull wasn’t sent to the emergency room. She screamed throughout the afternoon, so loudly that residents on other halls complained. She was found dead at 10:20 p.m. April 7. The faxed physician’s order was found the next day.
The jury found the nursing home guilty of negligence, medical malpractice and violation of resident’s rights. The poorly trained and overworked nursing staff failed to follow doctor’s orders for emergency services and treatment of severe abdominal pain. The jury awarded damages for pain, suffering and mental anguish at $5.2 million.
Even a frivolous and unsuccessful defense appeal will only be the beginning of a long road toward collection, if any. Defense counsel spent all the liability insurance coverage for legal costs and fees — $100,000 in this case. Defendants hired six different defense lawyers. The nursing home is controlled by Central Arkansas Nursing Centers, a private company headed by Michael Morton of Fort Smith. The individual nursing homes were organized as "freestanding limited liability corporations", with licenses separate from physical property and small liability insurance policies through a self-insurance-style program based in Bermuda.
The nursing home fought the case for four years but as a trial strategy admitted in the early stage of the trial "that a mistake was made." The admission of a mistake came only after the trial began. If sincere, it should have done so long ago, expressed regret and demonstrated sincerity by trying to make things right.