In Lang v. Beachwoode Point Care Center, before the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, plaintiff, as representative of decedent’s estate, alleged that not only did the nursing home neglect to provide her with proper care resulting in the wounds, they failed to appropriately respond in treating those wounds, didn’t notify her family of her deteriorating condition and didn’t alert her physician to a problem. By failing to provide her with adequate supervision, adequate nutrition or appropriate care levels, plaintiffs caused her severe injury, pain and suffering and ultimately, death. Her family also asserted damages in the form of mental anguish and loss of consortium.
Jurors ultimately agreed with those assertions, awarding $440,000 in compensatory damages, which will help to cover medical bills and funeral expenses. In addition, $560,000 in punitive damages was awarded. Such an award is intended to punish defendant for especially egregious or grossly negligent conduct.
In North Carolina, NCGS 1D-15 only allows punitive damages in cases where claimant proves defendant is liable for compensatory damages AND at least one of the following aggravating factors are present:
- Willful or wanton conduct
Such conduct has to be proven by clear and convincing evidence. Further, punitive damages can’t be awarded when defendant is solely liable vicariously for the actions of another (i.e., a company for an employee). In a case like this, where the nursing home would be vicariously liable for the actions of its staffers, punitive damages would only be available in cases where there was proof of direct negligence (i.e., failure to properly train and supervise, failure to adequately staff, failure to maintain proper records, etc.).
Plaintiffs alleged the care provided to decedent by the facility and/or by individual staffers deviated from the appropriate standard of care in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Specifically, plaintiffs allege that decisions regarding the number of nursing and custodial staff necessary for appropriate nursing care were made by non-medical professionals who lacked the appropriate medical training to make such decisions or issue such directives. Further, plaintiffs asserted defendants mandated nursing home staff recruit patients who required heavier care because the nursing home would receive the most in federal subsidies for those cases. However, they failed in turn to meet the needs of the patients when they did this because the number of very ill patients exceeded the number that staff could reasonably be expected to handle safely.
Pressure sores – also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores – are caused when there is a breakdown of the skin and underlying tissue after long periods of sustained pressure. It’s a condition our nursing home abuse lawyers recognize as one that most frequently affects those who are bedridden or use a wheelchair and who are unable to reposition themselves. Nursing home staffers should be acutely aware of this possibility, particularly for patients who are immobile and in advanced stages of disease who cannot speak for themselves when they are in pain.
But when nursing homes are overstaffed, it can directly affect the amount of time aides and nurses have to ensure this important task is done according to applicable care standards.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Jury awards family $1 million in lawsuit against Beachwood nursing home, Nov. 10, 2015, By Bob Sandrick, Cleveland.com
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Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp. – $6.6M Asbestos Verdict Reinstated, Nov. 17, 2015, Charlotte Injury Lawyer Blog