Rebecca Blevins, Jessica Ketterman, and Jennifer Ketterman of Elizabethton plead guilty to willful abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a dependant adult. Two of the aides intentionally and maliciously sprayed patients of the Appalachian Christian Village nursing home with water and one failed to report the abuse. See article at Time News.

“Tort reform” is a mysterious and elusive concept to most ordinary citizens. It’s not something that you really think about in everyday life. It’s not nearly as pressing as those bills that need to be paid, picking the kids up from school, or running to the office to finish up some paperwork. Regardless of your daily schedule, odds are that you don’t generally run into tort reform up close and personal. You may not even know what tort reform is.

Tort reform is legislation that makes it more difficult to file personal injury lawsuits; receive a jury trial for personal injury cases (despite that being a constitutional right); and arbitrarily limits the amount of compensation a victim can receive.  Caps on damages, wherein a person can’t receive more than a set amount, regardless of whether a jury awards a higher amount of damages, are everywhere. See our Tort Reform Articles, which include local, state, and national cases, here.

As reported by the Arkansas Times, Judge Mike Maggio recently negated a unanimous jury verdict. He found that the jury’s judgment of $5.2 million excessive, and arbitrarily reduced it to $1 million.

The case revolved around Martha Bull, 76, who died after experiencing excruciating pain because no one would take her to the hospital, even though her doctor had ordered her transfer to an ER. The order was lost or misplaced, all while Bull was screaming and crying in pain. The nursing home she was in was found liable for negligence, medical malpractice, and violation of the patient’s rights.

Greenbriar Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is part of a large corporation controlled by Michael Morton’s Central Arkansas Nursing Centers. Homes under their corporate control have a history of poor insurance coverage, which often gets used to pay legal defense fees, limiting even further the amount of money available for the plaintiff.

Tort reform takes the decision out of the jury’s hands and places it into a single judge’s who may be looking for campaign contributions for his next election, and not justice for a vulnerable adult.

DHEC has had a string of trouble lately, with allegations of impropriety in the tuberculosis outbreak, growing concern over the state of SC’s landfills, and now, a lawsuit that lists DHEC’s lack of enforcement as something that “threatens imminent harm” to the public, The State reports.

DHEC stopped enforcing the certificate-of-need law after Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed funds for the agency which enforces the law. The House of Representatives supported Haley’s veto, saying that money for the program’s enforcement should come from elsewhere in DHEC’s budget.
Under the law, hospitals and nursing homes must get a certificate of need from DHEC to purchase new equipment and to open their doors. Though this is still the law, if DHEC continues to not enforce it, nursing homes and hospitals can begin opening across the state without any enforcement.

As a result of DHEC’s lack of enforcement, 12 hospitals and nursing homes have gathered together to file suit against the health agency. They say that DHEC has other budgetary measures which enable them to pay for the enforcement, and that it’s illegal for them not to do so. They maintain that the veto eliminated state funding for other programs, which are still being enforced. To combat the confusion, DHEC has filed their own suit.

Security is one of the biggest concerns facing one nursing home in Waynesboro, Georgia. In a security breach on Monday, Donnie Moss was able to enter the home, where he sodomized a helpless resident. Families of residents reported that the numerical code for the keypad was posted on an exterior wall, visible to everyone. When WRDW News 12 went to interview the home, no code was posted. They asked about the code, and whether it had been removed since the incident on Monday, to which an employee said that they couldn’t comment. The rape was investigated and Moss has been charged with the crime.

Two aides are accused of assaulting an 88 year old vulnerable adult in a New York nursing home.  The Woodhaven Adult Home in Port Jefferson Station was the location of these crimes, where the aides punched the man and falsified records to conceal the crime. Woodhaven has a history of neglect charges, with two employees being indicted last month for tormenting patients and photographing patients without their consent.

Raquel Bouton and Laura Harper were arrested on charges of assault, attempted assault, endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, and willful health violations. Bouton was also accused of falsifying business records.  See article at The Examiner.

In a report by the Madison-St. Clare Record, details are given about Brenda Schneedle’s lawsuit against a Wood River nursing home for wrongful death. Brenda’s mother, Nellie Petrokovich died after multiple stays in the hospital. Following colon surgery at St. Anthony’s Hospital, she was transferred back to the home in stable condition. Nellie’s physician had blood work done and the labs showed a concerning level of sodium, which was low enough to cause harm.

According to Schneedle, the results were faxed to the home. According to the records, there’s nothing in the nurse’s notes to indicate receipt of a fax and there were no physician’s orders. Nellie’s extremities began to swell. She was taken to the hospital and released two days later. The same day she returned to the home, she began having shortness of breath and other complaints. She was rushed to the hospital again, where she was diagnosed with respiratory distress and congestive heart failure. She died eight days later.

 

In a common but tragic tale of greed and avarice, Pamela S. Britt, a nursing home administrator, was accused of stealing around $100,000 from 18 victims between 2007 and 2011 when she operated Heartland Health Care.  Britt was an authorized check signer and exploited that authority to write checks to herself, forging signatures of other employees to cover her tracks.

Britt remains in jail in lieu of a $75,000 bond. Her next court date is July 30. The residents have a single pool for their funds, whether they be private, Medicaid, or Social Security. Britt quit the home before an internal audit, when it was discovered that she had been committing fraud for the past three years. Britt could face up to 15 years in prison.  See full article at The News-Gazette.

 

A Certified Nursing Assistant, CNA, at the Ann Pearl Nursing Facility in Kaneohe,HI was arrested for three counts of sexual assault. He allegedly attacked a 78 year old woman in May. The 25 year old’s bail has been set at $25,000.  See article at The Star Advertiser.

Something we all long suspected has finally been confirmed. Some doctors do prescribe drugs because the pharmaceutical company pay them to do so according to a recent report from ProPublica.  See NPR article.  These doctors have a vested interest in prescribing these sometime dangerous drugs.  The drug industry rewards them with high speaking fees.

The report is based on financial data and prescriptions of specific drugs, like Bystolic, an expensive new drug that hit the market in 2008. The drug came into a market flooded with generic brands, prescriptions of generics pricing at as little as $4, whereas Bystolic comes in at a much higher price tag. ProPublica looked at the data and found a connection. Doctors who had been paid for their services at talks and presentations prescribed the drug more than other doctors, making up a majority of those doctors who prescribe the drug.

Not only does this cut significantly into Medicare dollars, and subsequently, tax dollars, but it also represents a concerning trend among American physicians. Bystolic doesn’t work better than any of the other generic drugs, it does the same job as the others. But doctors are prescribing it based on consulting fees. Doctors are supposed to do no harm. They’re clearly harming the Medicare system, taking advantage of a flawed system because they want to make a quick buck.

If a drug has adverse effects, do doctors still prescribe it because they’re cashing in? There are a lot of serious ethical concerns to this practice that is commonplace among American doctors. The connection between prescriptions and the padding in doctors’ paychecks represents a system of kickbacks and bribery that amounts to what basically constitutes as Medicare fraud. Now that there’s proof of this practice, time will tell if regulations become stricter.

The State reports that Dr. David Lee Smith is facing charges by SC’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for illegally obtaining prescription drugs.  Dr. David Lee Smith used prescriptions with another doctor’s name on them to obtain Tramadol and Eszopiclone for personal use. Dr. Smith is also facing DUI charges for killing Raymond Geiger. The drugs may have played a part in Geiger’s death, as Dr. Smith was slurring his speech and was unsteady while standing. Dr. Smith’s lawyer, Sherri Lydon, says the facts will come out in court. After the death of Mr. Geiger, Smith voluntarily relinquished his license and his ability to practice.