BY SEAN JAREM
A Davidson County jury awarded one of the largest civil judgments in the past 20 years Thursday when it found a Lexington nursing home responsible for mistreatment of an Alzheimer’s disease patient.
After three days of testimony and three hours of deliberations, the jury unanimously decided that Living Centers – Southeast Inc., the former owners of Brian Center Nursing Care of Lexington, must pay $480,000 to Emma H. King after she developed numerous pressure sores on her body. The pressure sores eventually led her to be permanently crippled.
The 83-year-old woman went into the nursing home May 9, 2002, for care and rehabilitation following knee replacement surgery, according to court records.
Within two months, King lost nearly 20 pounds, became dehydrated and developed pressure sores in the sacral area. She then developed two more pressure ulcers on her knees, according to medical records provided during the trial.
Jurors heard evidence that King developed a fever after the sores became infected and had to be hospitalized. When she was admitted back into the Brian Center she never recovered from the injuries and eventually lost the use of her legs.
Family members of King took her out of the nursing home Aug. 28, 2003. For a year, she had to undergo surgery on a weekly basis.
James Roane, King’s attorney, said it is a lack of staffing and training that leads to these types of nursing home abuse and neglect-based injuries.
"It was the most clear case of negligence I have seen," Roane said, characterizing the Brian Center as a place where profits were more important than patients.
Roane said when he filed the lawsuit in 2004, the company offered his client $38,000 to settle.
"That wasn’t even enough to pay for the medical bills," Roane said. "On eve of the trial, the defense did stipulate negligence."
The company refused to settle, he said, because they believed a Davidson County jury wouldn’t award any large amount.
The law firm for the defendant, Young, Moore and Henderson, a Raleigh-based firm, didn’t return numerous phone calls.
The current owners of the Brian Center refused to comment.
"We will not be able to comment because it occurred during previous ownership," said Melody Chatelle, a spokeswoman for the Brian Center.
The Brian Center’s current owner is Sava Senior Care, a nationwide company with hundreds of long-term care facilities across the country.
Sean Jarem can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 228 or at email@example.com.