A Florida jury handed down a $114 million verdict recently in a nursing home abuse case that resulted in an elderly woman’s death. It’s believed to be one of the largest verdicts ever in Polk County. The family of Juanita Jackson, a 76-year-old homemaker and mother of four, had to place her in a nursing home for rehabilitation in March 2003. Their plan was for Mrs. Jackson to regain her strength at IHS of Florida at Auburndale (now known as Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center) so her children could resume caring for her at home. But that was not to be.
Trans Healthcare, Inc. and Trans Healthcare Management operated the nursing home at the time of Jackson’s residency. During that period, the company also operated more than 200 nursing homes in 22 states and was the largest private nursing home chain in the United States.
The nursing home staff knew when Mrs. Jackson was admitted that she was at risk for falls, but they did not put proper preventative measures in place. Within two weeks of her admission, they allowed her to fall. It was a catastrophic injury. She suffered a closed head trauma and fractured her upper arm. She never fully recovered from her injuries and became more dependent on the nursing home staff than ever before. Moreover, the nursing home was chronically short-staffed with overworked employees. As a result, patients including Mrs. Juanita Jackson suffered. The nursing home staff didn’t turn her enough or elevate her heels to prevent the development of bedsores. She got multiple bedsores, including at least one that rotted to the bone. She wasn’t given enough to eat and drink, causing her to become malnourished and dehydrated. Mrs. Jackson was also overmedicated during her stay. She was left to lie in bed so long that she developed contractures, where the muscles shrivel up, making movement even more difficult.
Mrs. Jackson’s family removed her from the nursing home on May 30, 2003, but it was too late. Her health continued to deteriorate, and she died on July 6, 2003. During the trial, the jury heard from former caregivers, including a staffing coordinator, a certified nurse’s assistant and a nurse. All of them testified that the home maintained terrible conditions, such as not enough staff or supplies, and that the patients suffered as a result. Jurors also heard testimony from a doctor and a medical expert about how Mrs. Jackson’s terrible injuries resulted from the poor treatment and led to her death. Blair Mendes and Lance Reins, lawyers with Wilkes & McHugh, a Tampa, Fla. law firm, represented the family in this case. The lawyers did a very good job and Blair had this to say:
We hope this verdict will send a message to nursing home operators, especially big corporations, that it is not acceptable to put profits before people. Nursing home residents deserve attentive, dignified care.
Source: News Release
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