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Florida Nursing Home Patient Dies After 17 Falls, Son Wins $1.1B

A Florida jury has awarded more than $1.1 billion to a man whose mother fell victim to nursing home negligence.

Our Port St. Lucie nursing home abuse lawyers understand that the jury spent little more than an hour in deliberations before deciding on $110 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages. It’s unclear how much of that judgement, if any, is actually going to be recovered.

A separate 2010 case lodged against this same defendant resulted in a $114 million verdict, though efforts to collect on those damages are still pending. Two other cases against the same company are still awaiting trial.

The hope is at the very least that this facility won’t be in a position to put anyone else’s loved one in harm’s way.

The case stems from the death of a 69-year-old woman who was being cared for at Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center in Polk County. Her stay there lasted from 2004 until her death three years later.

During that time, the woman reportedly suffered 17 falls as a result of improper supervision at the nursing home.

Care at the home was supervised by Trans Healthcare Inc. and Trans Healthcare Management. Attorneys for the plaintiff say these were for-profit companies, part of conglomerate that took over the nursing home, “looted assets, short-staffed it, under-budgeted it and as a result, the nursing home residents were suffering.”

Sadly, this is not an uncommon story when it comes to for-profit nursing home facilities. Last year, federal health care inspectors issued a report indicating that the U.S. nursing home industry overbills some $1.5 billion annually for treatment that patients either don’t need or don’t get. Later, Bloomberg News conducted a more in-depth analysis of those figures and determined that for-profit nursing homes were the larger culprit, with 30 percent of their claims improper, versus 12 percent of non-profit nursing home care facilities’ claims.

The other issue that arises in this case is the seriousness of falls for elderly patients.

We don’t know all the circumstances behind each fall, but we do know that the last one resulted in a hip fracture for the patient. She was reportedly left in her hospital bed for four days before ultimately being transported to a hospital.

Staffers blamed the lack of available staff to not only supervise but also to respond to an emergency.

Falls account for more than a third of preventable hospital emergency room visits made by nursing home residents. Fall-related injuries are responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,800 nursing home residents annually. Many of those instances are preventable.

It’s estimated that in a typical, 100-bed nursing home facility, there are between 100 and 200 falls reported each year. That’s especially troubling when you consider that many times, falls aren’t reported.

Falls are dangerous to older residents as it is. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falls are the No. 1 cause of death from injury among people over the age of 65. Twenty to 30 percent of all falls among seniors result in serious injury, such as head trauma or hip fractures.

It’s more dangerous if that individual lives in a nursing home. Adults over the age of 65 who live in a nursing home are twice as likely to suffer a fall as those who are cared for elsewhere. They are also four times as likely to die of a fall-related injury if they live in a nursing home.

Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure not only that there are adequate prevention measures in place to prevent falls and that there is adequate staff to supervise patients in case of a fall. When facilities fail in this regard, they need to be held accountable.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Polk Jury Awards $1.1 Billion Verdict in Nursing Home Negligence Case, July 22, 2013, By Jason Geary The Ledger

More Blog Entries:
Bed Sores Are Common Sign of Nursing Home Neglect, July 25, 2013, Port St. Lucie Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer Blog

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