An Orange County jury has awarded $1 million in punitive damages to the family of Mary Kathleen Adams, a 104-year-old woman who died when she briefly stayed at the Villa Valencia Care Center nursing home, the Orange County Register reported. This verdict comes a week after the same jurors delivered a $1 million verdict against Sunrise Senior Living, the company that owns Villa Valencia Care Center, for its roll in the death of Adams in March 2005.
According to the report, Adams admitted herself into the nursing home after she broke her leg. The lawsuit alleges that she developed pressure ulcers, which worsened because of nursing home staff neglect. The problem worsened when the nursing home did not perform adequate treatment such as daily skin checks. Adams’ children, Janice Borkovetz and Wendell Adams, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in December 2005. The lawsuit alleged Sunrise knowingly understaffed their facilities putting profits over people.
The trial brought to light several nursing home abuse violations at Villa Valencia. The state Department of Health, which investigated the facility, faulted the nursing home in 2004 for understaffing, not doing adequate background checks of staff members and not looking into complaints lodged by patients’ families. The nursing home was also cited twice last year and fined $1,000 each time, once for sexual molestation by a nursing assistant and the other for negligence when a patient developed a urinary infection after her catheter was not changed as often as required, according to the article.
Nursing home understaffing and lack of adequate staff monitoring and training are the leading causes of nursing home abuse and negligence in the United States. Nursing home owners do this for one reason – to make more money. We’re pleased that the jury awarded punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages in the wrongful death suit. We hope more juries around the country do the same to send out a strong message to nursing home owners that they will be held responsible for their actions and cannot deliberately under-staff their facilities. I believe the best way to make these companies pay for their wrongdoing is to hit them where it’s likely to hurt most – in their wallets.