A jury in West Virginia found Pleasant Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation, a subsidiary of Pleasant Valley Hospital, Inc., guilty of negligence and recklessness and returned a $905,000 verdict, including $305,000 in punitive damages, against the nursing home. The verdict was returned in the case of Gladys Gerlach, a 72-year-old resident who died at the nursing home on December 24, 2012.

Gerlach suffered from dysphasia and esophageal stricture, so she was not to be served a regular diet. She also was to be supervised while eating, alternate eating and drinking, and not be reclined while eating. However, on December 24, 2012, three days after entering the nursing home for rehabilitation, she was served carrots and hamburger and allowed to eat unsupervised in a reclining position. The jury found that she choked to death, but her death was not discovered for two hours.

“The jury was extremely thoughtful and found not only that there was negligence on the part of the facility but also found that the facility’s conduct was reckless,” said Andrew Paternostro, an attorney with Stewart Bell, PLLC, who represented Gerlach’s estate.

In addition, the jury also found there was indication that Gerlach had received pain and anti-anxiety medications, which she was not scheduled to get, and there is no record that she received her regular medications.