The Chicago Tribune reported the recent settlement in a tragic drowning case.   Jennifer Seafield filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Warren Park Heath and Living Center after her mother, Jean Engstrom, drowned on July 4, 2010 in the center’s tub room.  The lawsuit accused the nursing home of failing to properly monitor her mother after she expressed suicidal ideas to staff personnel.

The settlement agreement was $102,500, including $35,007 in attorney fees and reimbursement costs, and $67,492.70 to the family.

An autopsy found that Engstrom had drowned, but initially medical examiners could not determine if the death was suicide, homicide or an accident, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

 

The Kansas City Star reported the $1.5 million verdict against the Jefferson Health Care home for the wrongful death of Ova Dycus.  She died as a result of a preventable fall.  Dycus was a vulnerable adult who had a high risk of falling. All interventions needed to be implemented to protect her but they were not.

She fell after a staff aide left her standing in her room after a shower the night of Sept. 22, 2007.
The aide did not report the fall to the home’s nursing staff and Dycus’ broken right hip went undiagnosed and untreated for at least 19 hours.

She died 6 days later.

A jury in Roanoke, Virginia has awarded 6.5 million dollars to a nursing home patient who fell from her bed. The man was at risk for falling out of bed and the nursing home failed to implement adequate preventative measures.  A nursing home is required to initiate all appropriate interventions to prevent falls.  According to published reports the plaintiff claimed that the fall was caused by the nursing home’s failure to apply and monitor a fall alarm in her bed. The plaintiff claimed almost $75,000.00 in medical and related expenses because of the injury. Prior to trial the nursing home did not make any offer to settle the case.  Bad bet by that insurance company.

 

On Friday, April 27, 2012, a Colorado jury returned a $3.2 Million verdict against Pioneer Health Care Center (“Pioneer”), a nursing home in Rocky Ford Colorado owned and operated by Grace Health Care.  Grace Healthcare is a Chattanooga, Tenn. company with nursing homes in eight states and a total of 4,000 beds.

Henry Frazier developed a serious and avoidable pressure sore on his bottom while at Pioneer as a result of nursing home neglect. Mrs. Frazier contended that neither she nor her family members were told how serious the pressure sore was by Pioneer nursing home staff and that no steps were taken to keep Mr. Frazier off of the pressure sore once it developed.  Nursing homes are required, he said, to move bedridden clients every two hours so they won’t develop skin problems or sores on their body.

As a result, the pressure sore became an infected, foul-smelling, Stage IV wound.  Pioneer nursing home staff failed to send him to the hospital and instead gave the family the treating physician’s telephone number when they asked that he be sent out. The treating physician did not return their phone call, and the family again asked for Mr. Frazier to be sent out to the hospital the following day in order to get him transferred.

Upon arrival to the hospital, Mr. Frazier was assessed as being septic, dehydrated and malnourished.  His pressure sore was seriously infected with MRSA, a particularly dangerous type of bacteria.  Hospital staff were concerned that this patient had been the victim of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Mr. Frazier never recovered from this serious pressure sore and MRSA infection, and died two months later, on December 3, 2010. His death certificate listed MRSA as his primary cause of death.

Read what the media has reported on this verdict:

$3.2 million award in Rocky Ford nursing home death tied to bedsores (The Denver Post)
Poor care at Rocky Ford nursing home blamed for death (The Pueblo Chieftain)
$3.2 million verdict – Jury awards money to family of former nursing home resident (La Junta Tribune Democrat)
 

The Louisville Courier Jornal reported the jury’s verdict in a recent two week nursing home neglect trial against Treyton Oak Towers.  The jury awarded $8 million in damages to the estate of a retired surgeon whose legs were broken becuase of neglect.  Dr. David Griffin died less than two months after he was improperly transferred from a chair into his bed causing fractures.  The plaintiffs claimed Griffin was transferred without a lift and by only one nursing assistant, in violation of the nursing home’s care plan, which required two assistants.

The worse part is that Defendants tried to cover up what happened.  Employees were ordered to change medical records to cover the incident up.  This happens all the time in nursing homes. 

The verdict was returned after the jury deliberated for about two hours and included $2 million for pain and suffering, $1 million for violating the state nursing home statute and $5 million in punitive damages.
 

The Gainesville Sun reported another verdict against Trans Health Management–this one for $900 million.  Collecting the judgment is the difficult part.  A jury’s civil judgment is the third since 2010 worth more than $100 million that law firm Wilkes & McHugh has won against Delaware corporations that owned or operated 220 nursing homes nationwide — Trans Health Management and its parent Trans Healthcare.   Trans Health Management Inc., meanwhile, has since folded, and its parent, Trans Healthcare Inc., is in receivership in Maryland. Trans Healthcare’s receivership stopped defending Webb’s case in 2010 after years of delay and obstruction.  Because the defense refused to appear, the jury heard unrebutted testimony about what Webb suffered between 2001 and 2005 — the last part of his 10-year stay at University Place.

"The 25-page complaint against the company details how, after entering the nursing home following a stroke, Webb was paralyzed and needed 24-hour care. As the company charged with taking care of him doubled in size, he suffered multiple pressure sores to his right foot, right calf, right heel, coccyx and left buttock, the complaint stated. He suffered multiple infections, septicemia and unexplained weight loss, the complaint said. All the while, the corporations were draining money out of the nursing homes, instead of providing decent care, the complaint said."

"Defendants … acted and failed to act in … their duties to Joseph Webb … for their own gain, to increase their net worth and consolidated revenues, in direct and substantial breach of their duties," the complaint reads   "As a result of these companies’ care, the Rev. Joseph Webb suffered pressure sores and infections that required surgeries, including an above-the-knee amputation of his right leg, attorney Bennie Lazzara Jr. told the jury."

"The family was grateful to have a chance to have the story told for Rev. Webb," Lazzara said. "The main reason the family brought the suit was so that this wouldn’t happen to anyone else."

"Wilkes & McHugh, the law firm for Webb’s family, has yet to collect on either the $114 million judgment a Polk County jury awarded in 2010 in the death of a nursing home patient or a $200 million verdict a Pinellas County jury returned last month after a woman in a wheelchair toppled to her death. Both were cases against this same set of corporations, which at their peak generated $1 billion in revenues, according to Wilkes & McHugh."

"We believe that the assets of these companies have been transferred to other companies," he said. "It’s our intention to follow this company until we find out where the assets are and then we’re going to collect them."

 

The Tampa Bay Times reported that for the third time in two years, the law firm of Wilkes & McHugh has won a nursing home verdict against THI entities, the predecessor of Fundamental Long Term Care Holdings.  In 2010, a Polk County jury awarded $114 million in a nursing home resident’s death. Then, a Pinellas County jury awarded $200 million after a woman in a wheelchair toppled to her death in a stairwell. Now, a Gainesville jury handed down a $900 million verdict, including $700 million in punitive damages — half again more than Wilkes & McHugh had even asked for.

"What is drawing so much outrage from juries is unrebutted testimony that the controlling interests behind these companies were hedge funds and banks that allegedly siphoned money out of nursing home operations by cutting staff, loading up on debt, letting care decline and shuffling funds between corporations to buffer them from lawsuits."

"We are showing the sums of money being looted,” James Wilkes said. "We think total profits were about $2 billion that was sucked out of the system.”

"The Trans Health companies do not appear to have much in the way of assets. But Wilkes & McHugh is trying to collect from a few hedge funds and financial institutions such as GE Capital Corp., saying they colluded to pull money out of nursing home operations and should now be forced to return it."

 

Dechert’s website had the following about their recent win in a lawsuit against Fundamental:

Dechert attorneys obtained a favorable judgment issued on Feb. 7 by the First Department of the New York Appellate Division in Fundamental Long Term Care Holdings LLC v. Cammeby’s Funding, LLC, No. 650332-2011. Dechert partner Steven A. Engel argued the case on Jan. 17 in support of a judgment recognizing the rights of defendant Cammeby Funding, LLC to a one-third interest in Fundamental Long Term Care, a national nursing-home company.. In the court’s opinion it stated: “regardless of which document was executed first, the motion court correctly found unambiguous the parties’ option agreement entitling defendant Cammeby’s to acquire units of the LLC for $1,000 without the need for any capital contribution. We note that the integration clause in the option agreement bars parol evidence of the parties’ intent and of any other agreements or understandings. Under the circumstances, we reject plaintiffs’ contention that defendants obtained an improper windfall.”

“We’re pleased that the First Department recognized, as the trial court did, that the plain language of the option agreement must govern the parties’ rights," stated Mr. Engel.

In addition to Mr. Engel, Dechert chairman Andrew J. Levander was on the team representing the defendants, Cammeby’s Funding, LLC and Quality Healthcare Services.

The Court’s decision may be found here.

 

The Tampa Bay Times reported the $200 million jury verdict in a case where the Defendant was in default.  The case stemmed from the 2004 death of Elvira Nunziata, a resident with dementia at Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center. Her bloody body was found at the bottom of a stairwell after she toppled one story while strapped to a wheelchair. Former aides at the home testified that the door to the stairwell was supposed to be locked, but that staffers often disabled the alarm so they could go smoke.  The home had a history of deficiency citations and abuse complaints and the aides said it was frequently understaffed.

The defendant was Trans Health Management Inc., who had sole authority to operate the home at the time, but has since gone defunct. Its parent company, Trans Health, Inc., is in receivership in Maryland.  The Tampa law firm of Wilkes & McHugh, which represented Nunziata’s estate, alleged that the true owners were private equity investors who shuffled the assets of Trans Health Management into affiliated entities to avoid liability and then chose not to mount a defense.

 

 

87-year-old Susanna West became so hungry and thirsty after being left alone for more than 14 hours on a nursing home bus that she opened a first aid kit and ate the Tylenol and drank the hydrogen peroxide.  West was a resident of Hearthstone Assisted Living Facility.  She was finally found face down on the bus, soaked in urine.  She died a few weeks later.

The family filed a lawsuit in the name of West’s estate in 2010 against Texas-based Hearthstone. But the company never responded to requests for records and information.   The facility did not carry any insurance.  The owners sold the facility and walked away scot free.  Hearthstone defaulted because it failed to provide documents and because it had withdrawn its previous counsel and had not hired a substitute attorney.  Judge Christopher Yates approved a default judgment of  $1.65 million.