After a 6 week jury trial, the jury compensated the family of a female resident $13.2 million after she was neglected resulting in painful pressure ulcers that caused her death. The case involved Mary Dwyer, who was admitted to the Alaris Health at Harborview facility in Jersey City for short-term rehabilitation after falling at home and dislocating a shoulder. Over the course of about three months, the 87-year-old Dwyer developed large Stage IV ulcers, lost 20 pounds, underwent nine wound debridements, two bone shavings and a colostomy — conditions and treatments that were “unnecessary and preventable.” She died on Feb. 27, 2010. Hundreds of Haborview workers went on strike for three days in 2010 to protest low wages and short staffing. The 180-bed, for-profit facility vigorously denied the charges and refused to accept responsibility.
“With adequate staffing and a properly run facility she would have completed her rehab and gone back home,” reads a statement from her attorneys at Stark & Stark. “Instead, she died an undignified death in pain.”
Richard L. Wilson, 70 yr old resident of McCrea Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center was killed when the electricity at the home went out. Wilson couldn’t breathe on his own and the electricity caused his breathing machine to stop working, resulting in his death. A jury awarded Wilson’s family $375,000 in compensatory damages and an undisclosed settled amount of punitive damages. The damages were increased because the facility didn’t have backup power for all of their rooms and they had a previous power outage where Mr. Wilson had to be taken to the hospital. See full article here.
Herlinda Garcia was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal breast cancer in 2009. She underwent seven months of horrible chemotherapy, gave away a life’s worth of belongings, and arranged for hospice care for when she became too ill to care for herself. There’s only one problem.
Garcia did not have cancer.
Her doctor, Dr. Qadri, had misread the PET/CT scan. Garcia was misdiagnosed and did not find out that she was cancer-free until 2011. Because of the malpractice from Dr. Qadri, a jury awarded Garcia only $367,500 in a medical malpractice lawsuit, which will then be lowered to comply with the state’s arbitrary cap on damages at $250,000.
See article at Houston Chronicle.
A West Virginia nursing home may soon be changing hands. Heartland of Charleston is in the process of being sold from HCR Manorcare to Stonerise Healthcare, backed by Chesterfield Company LLC. Stonerise is privately owned and controls four nursing and rehabilitation centers in West Virginia already.
The sale of the home comes at the end of a lengthy legal battle, wherein a wrongful death suit for Dorothy Douglas resulted in a $90 million ruling against the home. Another suit for Carolyn J. Geouge has been settled under confidential terms. Douglas died of dehydration complications as a result of the home’s negligence, and Geouge’s family accused the home of failure to prevent pressure sores and infections, and failure to assess changes in her physical and mental status. $80 million of the ruling comes from punitive damages, or damages designed to change the home’s behavior.
See articles at West Virginia Record and The State Journal.
“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.
A settlement in Knox County represents the largest settlement in a nursing home case in the county. The $600,000 settlement was achieved by Parker & Parker. Robert J. Short, 74 yr old patient of the home, developed a pressure sore which progressively got worse, and resulted in his hospitalization, and one month later, significantly contributed to his death. The case, Parker said, was very preventable, and he credits that wrongful death as the reason the settlement was so large.
In addition to the negligence and lack of treatment of the sore, there were multiple instances where the nurses lied to the family about the state of the sore. They told the family that it was getting better, when in fact it was getting worse. The sore reached the point where it was releasing foul smelling green drainage and exposing bone, leading to the bone infection that caused Short to be hospitalized.
Last month a federal jury found that Tuomey Healthcare System, a SC hospital, was engaging in Medicare fraud. The hospital was receiving kickbacks on referral fees, using its influence to create partnerships with doctors, solidified by contracts, and engaging in a kickback system. Tuomey received $39 million of Medicare money, all through fraudulent claims. They claim that contracts are legal and a part of the hospital’s efforts to serve the community and they asked a federal judge to overturn the verdict, in part because of the $237 million damages.
The Daily Mall reported that a circuit judge has granted a request for a $50 million bond to be obtained on behalf of the plaintiffs in a nursing home lawsuit that resulted in a $91 million jury verdict. The verdict has been appealed to the state Supreme Court. The jury found that Douglas died as a result of neglect at Heartland of Charleston, owned by Manor Care Inc. Douglas was a patient at Heartland for 19 days in 2009 before being transferred to a hospice facility and dying there. Attorneys argued that dehydration and other lack of care at Heartland caused her death. The jury determined the nursing home was at fault and awarded the family $11 million for her death. They awarded $80 million in punitive damages against the company. Last month the judge denied a request for a new trial in the case and it was sent to the Supreme Court.
Attorney Michael Fuller told Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib that a bond was necessary as the higher court considered that monetary award. The nursing home is covered by two primary insurance companies – Manor Care Insurance Ltd. and AIG – for any amount over $10 million. But several other insurers are involved as well.
The Arkansas Times reported a jury in Arkansas returned a unanimous verdict finding that the Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had been negligent in the care and treatment of Martha Bull. Bull was admitted March 28, 2008 for 30 days of short term rehabilitation. During the night of April 6, 2008 she was in severe pain, sweating and unable to have a bowel movement. Nothing was done. The next shift, she continued to complain. A physician was finally called at 2:20 p.m. April 7. He ordered her transferred immediately to an emergency room. The director of nursing received the fax at 3:34 p.m., but was leaving for the day. The nursing director failed to properly communicate the order. No one saw the fax or was aware of it til after she was found dead. Bull wasn’t sent to the emergency room. She screamed throughout the afternoon, so loudly that residents on other halls complained. She was found dead at 10:20 p.m. April 7. The faxed physician’s order was found the next day.
The jury found the nursing home guilty of negligence, medical malpractice and violation of resident’s rights. The poorly trained and overworked nursing staff failed to follow doctor’s orders for emergency services and treatment of severe abdominal pain. The jury awarded damages for pain, suffering and mental anguish at $5.2 million.
Even a frivolous and unsuccessful defense appeal will only be the beginning of a long road toward collection, if any. Defense counsel spent all the liability insurance coverage for legal costs and fees — $100,000 in this case. Defendants hired six different defense lawyers. The nursing home is controlled by Central Arkansas Nursing Centers, a private company headed by Michael Morton of Fort Smith. The individual nursing homes were organized as “freestanding limited liability corporations”, with licenses separate from physical property and small liability insurance policies through a self-insurance-style program based in Bermuda.
The nursing home fought the case for four years but as a trial strategy admitted in the early stage of the trial “that a mistake was made.” The admission of a mistake came only after the trial began. If sincere, it should have done so long ago, expressed regret and demonstrated sincerity by trying to make things right.
SavaSeniorCare is one the biggest and most profitable nursing home chains in the U.S owned and operated by entities controlled by New York tycoons Murray Forman and Leonard Grunstein. Last week, a jury in Colorado punished the billion dollar chain with a verdict of $3.7 million. $3.5 million in punitive damages against Belmont Lodge Health Care Center and $200,000 to be awarded to Margaret Smith for her pain and suffering.
See articles at KOAA, The Denver Channel, and KRDO.
Sava run Belmont Lodge Health Care Center in Pueblo caused the wrongful death of 88-year-old Janet Smith in May 2011. Smith served as a nurse in World War II and the Korean War. Denver-based attorney Jordan Levine represented Smith’s daughter, Margaret, who sued after her mother’s condition rapidly deteriorated resulting in her death shortly after entering Belmont Lodge for rehabilitation of two broken ankles in April 2011. As a result, she was outfitted with a foley catheter so that she could urinate. Defendants’ reckless conduct and neglect related to the monitoring and care for that catheter by Belmont Lodge staff led to a severe urinary tract infection, resulting in Janet’s death.
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