It is tragic that the elderly in Kentucky and Tennessee may be subject to abuse while in the care of a nursing home. Unfortunately nursing home abuse is all too common.
A plaintiff suing for damages in a nursing home abuse or medical negligence case must demonstrate duty, breach, causation and damages. In these cases, it is usually necessary to retain several expert witnesses because of the scientific and technical nature of the evidence. Further, doctors and nurses are often required to testify regarding the standard of care.
Jurors may not be able to draw their own conclusions from the evidence without the help of several experts.
In a 2013 case, a defendant nursing home appealed from a judgment that awarded a plaintiff $30,000 in compensatory and $225,000 in punitive damages. The plaintiff was the estate of a nursing home resident who had died after staying at the nursing home.
The deceased, a 60-year-old woman, had arrived at the hospital complaining of pain and swelling in her thigh. She had blindness, hypertension, end stage renal disease and diabetes in her medical history. The hospital diagnosed her with possible cellulitis and released her to hospice care. She was transferred to the nursing home.
Her doctor at the nursing home admitted her for rehabilitation, recommending physical and occupational therapy, rather than hospice care. After 25 days at the nursing home, she was sent back to the hospital for rectal bleeding. She also needed treatment for a pressure ulcer (bedsore) on her coccyx, which is the bone at the base of the spine.
The hospital identified the pressure ulcer as on her coccyx as Stage IV. More pressure sores were found elsewhere on her body. Notably the sore on her coccyx tested positive for E-Coli.
She was discharged and returned to the nursing home, where she died on November 6, 2006. Her estate sued the nursing home, alleging negligence that led to her death. During the trial, the nursing home moved for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence, but this motion was denied.
After the jury awarded punitive damages, the nursing home appealed the denial of its motion for directed verdict. It claimed there was no evidence of medical causation.
The estate had called a geriatric specialist as its medical expert. He testified that the nursing home had violated the standard of care and was negligent. He believed it was recklessly below the standard of care for the nursing home to put the deceased on a restricted calorie diet when she had pressure sores. Inadequate nutrition, according to the expert, had caused her to be unable to recover from the sores.
Numerous other witnesses were also called for the estate. One expert witness was a funeral director who testified as to how big the pressure sore and how smelly her body was when he picked her up after her death. An administrator for the hospital testified that at times there were not enough staff members to provide the minimal care required by the Long Term Care Survey Manual. A dietary expert testified on the need for proper nutrition if a pressure sore is to heal. An expert in nursing home administration also testified on behalf of the estate on the standards of nursing home care.
The appellate court explained that together all of these witnesses provided testimony that served as more than sufficient evidence to show a breach of the standard of care. It affirmed the lower court’s denial of the motion for directed verdict. The nursing home appealed on several other grounds as well, but the appellate court ultimately affirmed the judgment for the plaintiff.
If someone you love has been subject to nursing home abuse, you may want to consult the knowledgeable Kentucky personal injury attorneys of English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley about filing a lawsuit and possible remedies. Contact us at 270-781-6500 or via our online form for a consultation.