July 22, 2013

Settlement Reached In Nursing Home Case

by Levin & Perconti

A lawsuit was recently settled in a nursing home neglect case again HCR Manor Care. As mentioned in a new WV Records story, the underlying suit was filed in early February 2012 by the administrator of the estate of a former resident at a HCR Manor Care facility. The suit claimed that the four-year resident of the facility suffered neglect which resulted in serious injuries, pain, suffering, and ultimately, her death. The 85-year old allegedly had pressure sores develop, infections, and various other physical and mental problems resulting from lackluster care. Allegations were also made about a nursing home fall, with premises liability claims included in the lawsuit. The suit was eventually settled by the family for a confidential amount.

$90 Million Case Still Going
One of the most high-profile nursing home neglect cases in recent memory also involved the nursing home chain HCR Manor Care. What made the case so unique and headline-grabbing was the size of the verdict against the company after a jury heard evidence about systematic problems in care against the chain--$90 million.

In another case against HCR Manor Care, a female resident was allegedly mistreated to the point that she was not even fed properly. As a result, the senior died of dehydration following her nursing home stay. That case ultimately went to trial and a jury wa asked to settle the dispute. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The family was awarded $11.5 million in compensatory damages for the losses sustained by their loved one as a result of poor care. On top of that, in a somewhat unique move, the jury also awarded $80 million in punitive damage.

As readers know, punitive damage are quite rare in all civil lawsuits. Unlike compensatory damages--which are tied to actual losses--punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant. In this case, the purpose was to actually make an impact on the large nursing home chain, hopefully spurring them to change practices and prevent more residents from being hurt unnecessarily.

Even though the jury reached its verdict, the family has yet to receive a dime, because the defendants in the case are appealing the ruling. Specifically, they are arguing to the state’s Supreme Court that the lawsuit implicated a damage cap law , which arbitrarily limits the awards a plaintiff can receive, regardless of what a jury decides. The nursing home chain claims the maximum non-economic damage award (let alone punitive damage award) is only $500,000.

These two cases are reminders of a few principles that underlie nursing home neglect lawsuits. First, many nursing home chains exhibit substandard care over and over again. With profits so large, many of these facilities simply assume that lawsuit payouts are part of doing business. Residents are hurt over and over with little changing. Second, even then, facilities often do everything in their power to prevent paying for the consequences of their negligence, even if it involves appeals that drag out the process for years. Unfortunately, fairness for residents is often low on the totem pole for owners and operators of the largest nursing home systems.


See Other Blog Posts:

Supreme Court DOMA Ruling May Soon Affect Rights of Couples in Illinois

Ex-Chicago Cub Kerry Wood Discovers Body of Nursing Home Resident