A DeKalb County jury awarded $1.8 million to the estate of a nursing home resident who died as a consequence of hitting her head in a fall from bed as the staff carelessly changed the bed linens while she remained in the bed. She suffered a brain injury after an aide rolled her off her bed, causing her to fall to the floor and hit her head. The jury verdict covered the pain and suffering of Christine Mitchell but included no damage award on an accompanying wrongful death claim.
Attorneys for the woman’s son and executor said the verdict revealed that a jury could find value in the suffering of even terminally ill plaintiffs. Mitchell, who was already in poor health, died a month after the 2015 fall at Grace Healthcare of Tucker. Grace Healthcare of Tucker is a 136-bed for-profit facility which is part of a Tennessee-based chain that operates more than 30 homes in multiple states. The home currently has a 1-star rating — the lowest — on the federal government’s “Nursing Home Compare” website. The federal website rates the facility as “much below average” on the three key categories of health inspections, staffing and quality measures.
“One of the interesting things about this kind of case is how a jury would look at her. What is the pain and suffering worth for a woman dropped on her head who probably only had another six months to live?” said Evan Jones of Athens’ Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley.
“The jury answered that very important question: Their pain and suffering does matter,” said Jones, who tried the case with co-counsel Michael Prieto, William Holbert and Jonathan Marigliano of Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert & Prieto, an Atlanta firm.
Jones said his team made a $500,000 offer of settlement on the pain and suffering claim and a similar offer on wrongful death in September, both of which were declined.