The lawsuit was filed by the family of 87 year-old Dorothy Douglas who a jury found died as a result of her care in the Heartland facility. Douglas suffered from dementia but her physician believed, with proper care, she would be able to live with her condition for several years. When she entered Heartland she was able to communicate and walk on her own.
After only three weeks at the facility, Douglas died. Her death certificate listed dementia as her cause of death however Douglas’ attorneys said she died of dehydration, according to the Charleston Daily Mail. In the initial lawsuit, Douglas’ family alleged the facility did not feed Douglas and after her stay she was “bed-ridden” and “malnourished.”
In 2011, a jury awarded the Douglas family $91.5 million for punitive and compensatory damages. The case went to the Supreme Court over whether the settlement amount could be capped under the state’s Medical Professional Liability Act.
The state Supreme Court said the facility’s actions were “reprehensible,” and their parent company put their profits above their patients by keeping staff levels low and failed to provide appropriate care. However justices reduced the punitive damages awarded in the case to $32 million from the original $80 million, and cut the compensatory damages from $11.5 million to $5 million.
The Douglas family has 30 days to decide if they will accept the reduced settlement. Attorneys for the family said the lawsuit wasn’t about money in the first place
Sadly, stories like this are not unusual since many nursing homes across the country are understaffed. Staffing is key in ensuring all the needs of nursing home residents are met and they are safe from harm. With inadequate staff, a nursing home is prone to making medication errors, residents can injure themselves in variety of ways.
Falls, which often result in broken bones and head injuries, are common in poorly staffed facilities. When a patient’s incontinence care needs are neglected they can develop urinary tract and bladder infections and painful skin rashes. Bed sores are also common in nursing homes with low staffing levels and caused by failing to move a patient regularly. If your loved one has been harmed because of a facility’s negligence, a nursing home abuse attorney will work to make certain no medical costs will come out of the victim’s pocket.
Even though nursing homes costs are high, many homes prefer to fill their coffers over paying people to give their residents the dignity and care they deserve. This isn’t true of all nursing homes but it happens in far too many. Punitive damages, like the ones awarded in this case, send a clear message that nursing home abuse and neglect won’t be tolerated.
Our elderly loved ones should be respected and when a nursing home fails to tend to a resident’s needs, a nursing home abuse attorney will ensure they take responsibility for the pain and anguish that have caused a resident and their family.