West Virginia nursing home guilty of wrongful death

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Sep 09, 2011 in Nursing Home Injury or Death

Many West Virginia nursing home residents are at the mercy of their caregivers. Elderly patients are dependent on others for many of the necessities of life. When caregivers at nursing homes fail to ensure that those they are responsible for receive the care they need and deserve, lives can be placed at risk.

An August jury verdict awarded more than $90 million to the family of a woman who died while in the care of Heartland, a Kanawha City nursing home, which is owned by ManorCare Inc. Two weeks of testimony described the abuse and the neglect that the woman suffered and that finally ending in her death by dehydration.

This extraordinary verdict shows how much the horrific treatment that this vulnerable woman received while in the care of Heartland's staff affected the jury. The jury was obviously outraged at the abuse and neglect that this woman suffered. If what happened at this West Virginia nursing home was so egregious to result in such a large verdict, then the likely conclusion is that the Heartland nursing home is simply not a place where loved ones are safe.

The large verdict will likely be appealed. The judge has not order a judgment on the verdict but has scheduled a post-trial motions hearing to determine whether the verdict complies with West Virginia's cap on damages. Under a law enacted in 2003, medical liability monetary awards are limited to $500,000. Punitive damages are also limited.

It remains unclear whether this law is applicable under these particular circumstances. The judge will make a determination as to whether the verdict is appropriate or should be limited.

Regardless of whether this large verdict is reduced, hopefully it will send a clear message to West Virginia's nursing homes, and Heartland in particular, that vulnerable residents must be cared for with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

Source: Charleston Daily Mail, "Verdict sparks debate on medical liability law," Cheryl Caswell, Aug. 26, 2011

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