A Tennessee jury recently returned its verdict in the amount of $30 million against a Tennessee nursing home, which included $28 million in punitive damages. The remainder of the jury’s verdict was for compensatory damages for nursing home negligence ($1.9 million) and for violations of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act, including alleged fraudulent record keeping ($129,000). The jury awarded punitive damages against four companies in the amount of $2 million each, and $10 million each against the two owners.
The Tennessee nursing home wrongful death lawsuit was filed in 2010. The trial lasted about five weeks and ended with the jury’s verdict, on August 18, 2016.
The Alleged Underlying Facts
A woman in her early 80s resided with her husband in the same Tennessee nursing home in 2008 and 2009. The woman developed pressure ulcers on her right foot that were not properly treated, which led to pressure ulcers extending down to the bone. The woman’s pressure ulcers became infected, which led to the amputation of her leg in October 2009. The woman died two months later due to the neglect she experienced in the nursing home, according to her family’s nursing home wrongful death lawsuit.
The Tennessee nursing home defendants plan to file post-trial motions to set aside the jury’s verdict, and to file an appeal, if necessary. One of the defense attorneys contends that the defendants had “presented substantial evidence demonstrating that this patient’s injuries were caused by serious and chronic medical conditions, rather than any negligence on the part of the caregivers” and that the jury’s verdict “is not based upon the facts and law,” but rather shows that the jury failed to follow the jury instructions.
According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (“NCHS”), about 2% to 28% of nursing home residents in the United States have pressure ulcers. More than one in ten nursing home residents in the United States had at least one pressure ulcer in 2004: of the 1.5 million U.S. nursing home residents in 2004, about 159,000 (11%) had pressure ulcers of any stage (Stage 2 was the most common (5%), accounting for about 50% of all pressure ulcers; stages 1, 3, and 4 made up about the other 50% of all pressure ulcers).
Residents aged 64 years and under were more likely than older residents to have pressure ulcers (14% and 10%, respectively). Pressure ulcers were more common in males (13%) than in females (10%). Residents in nursing homes for one year or less (16%) were more likely to have pressure ulcers than those with a longer length of stay (7%). There was no significant difference between white and nonwhite populations with respect to having pressure ulcers.
In short, nursing home residents in a nursing home for a year or less since admission, who had a recent weight loss, or who had high immobility had the highest prevalence of pressure ulcers. Among residents with a pressure ulcer of stage 2 or higher, 35% received special wound care services, suggesting that a minority of nursing home residents with stage 2 or higher pressure ulcers received wound care in accordance with the clinical practice guidelines.
The NCHS’s February 2009 Data Brief concluded, “Pressure ulcers are serious and common medical conditions in U.S. nursing homes, and remain an important public health problem.”
If you or a loved one suffered injury or death while a resident of a nursing home in Tennessee or in another U.S. state due to nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, or nursing home understaffing, you should promptly contact a local nursing home claim lawyer in Tennessee or in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home case on your behalf, if appropriate.
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