The surviving relatives of a man who died after being cared for in a nursing home have been awarded $4.2 million in compensatory damages, and the amount could be more if a judge’s ruling vacating punitive damages is overturned.
Jurors made their ruling last Thursday against the National Healthcare Corp. facility in McMinnville after hearing three weeks of testimony about Cheatum Myers’ final days.
“What happened to Mr. Myers shouldn’t have happened to an animal,” said attorney Ken Connor, who represented Myers’ relatives, Christine Smartt and Ruby Kilgore, who filed the suit. “We hope this will prevent something like this from happening to anyone else.”
The case focused on allegations that Myers had not been properly cared for while a patient at NHC.
Plaintiffs maintained the parent NHC company was more focused on making money than caring for its patients, thereby leaving the facility short staffed and the employees “doomed to failure” when it came to caring for its patients.
For instance, plaintiffs said Myers suffered numerous falls during his stay, one of which broke his hip. They said he didn’t get treatment for the injury for a week.
It was also maintained that an infection around where Myers’ catheter was located led to a high fever complicated by pneumonia and that he had one bed sore all the way to the bone on his heel.
Defense attorneys, however, said Myers was properly treated for the sores, which they claim he first suffered while at the hospital having hip surgery. The defense also said time spent with patients at NHC McMinnville was above the state requirement.
Myers died in 2005, and the lawsuit claimed it was because of the lack of care he received at NHC. However, jurors opted not to award damages for wrongful death, instead basing their compensatory damages on areas such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley vacated any punitive damages assessed against NHC and its immediate subordinate company because he said he “could not find reckless conduct based on the evidence that was presented.”
However, Stanley noted an appellate court could overturn his ruling at a later date and award as much as $29.6 million to the plaintiffs.
Murfreesboro-based NHC also owned the nursing home in Nashville where a 2003 fire was blamed for 16 deaths. The company settled 32 lawsuits arising from the fire.
Information from: Southern Standard,
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