The family of a Northeast Ohio woman who died while suffering infected pressure wounds – also known as “bedsores” – has prevailed in its $1 million lawsuit against the nursing home in which she resided at the time of her death. Plaintiffs had alleged the 71-year-old’s death was the result of negligent, reckless and/or intentional acts and omissions.
Specifically, decedent at the center of Lang v. Beachwood Pointe Care Center suffered serious, painful and ultimately fatal injuries when she developed severe pressure wounds that were not properly treated. As her condition continued to worsen, neither her doctor nor her family were notified of her rapid deterioration.
In fact, the family later learned that decisions about her health care were made by non-medical staffers. The failure of the nursing home to provide adequate staffing levels was a core cause of decedent’s injuries and subsequent death, the lawsuit alleged.
Jurors apparently agreed, awarding the family $440,000 in compensatory damages and $560,000 in punitive damages. While compensatory damages are intended to compensate victims for specific wrongs, punitive damages are intended to punish defendant for egregious wrongdoing. In most states, the option to even seek punitive damages isn’t on the table without approval from the trial judge at the outset of the proceedings.
In Florida, F.S. 768.72 prohibits punitive damages in a civil action unless there is a reasonable showing of either gross negligence or intentional misconduct. The statute defines gross negligence as conduct that is so reckless or wanting in care that it constitutes a conscious disregard or indifference of life, safety or rights of others.
Plaintiffs alleged defendant nursing home directly liable for:
- Failing to train, hire, supervise and retain the director of nursing and other staff;
- Failure to adopt policies, procedures and guidelines to effectively investigate and respond to misconduct;
- Failing to provide adequate supervision of non-medical personnel;
- Failing to provide decedent with foot that was edible and palatable;
- Making false, deceptive or misleading representations regarding the quality of care.
Plaintiffs further allege vicarious liability for the negligent actions of its employees.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, which reported on the verdict did not go into detail about arguments made a trial by either side.
What our Orlando nursing home abuse lawyers do know is that when nursing home patients suffer pressure sores, it’s often a sign of improper care and neglect. These are wounds to the skin that are caused by a person remaining in one position for too long. Most commonly, they occur in areas where the skin is closed to the bones. Those who are most at risk are those who use a wheelchair or are bedridden and unable to change their own position.
These sores are not only extremely painful, they can result in life-threatening infections, which was the allegation in this case.
They are entirely preventable with proper care, which includes keeping the skin clean and dry, changing positions every couple of hours and using pillows and other products that can help alleviate the pressure.
It’s imperative that sores be treated quickly and appropriately, because once the sores become advanced, they are very slow to heal.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Jury awards family $1 million in lawsuit against Beachwood nursing home, Nov. 10, 2015, By Bob Sandrick, Cleveland Plain Dealer
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Elder Financial Abuse, Exploitation A Real Risk for Nursing Home Patients, Nov. 28, 2015, Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog