A jury in New Mexico, while acknowledging that a nursing home was negligent, awarded $54 million to the family of a woman who died in the facility, according to a news article in the Albuquerque Tribune. Most of the award – about $50 million – was in punitive damages.
Lori Keith, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of her deceased mother, was awarded the damages on June 28 after jurors agreed that ManorCare Inc., an Ohio-based nursing home corporation, neglected Keith’s 78-year-old mother to such an extent that she died. The lawsuit alleged that the nursing home tried to cover up Barbara Barber’s death by taking away sheets and other items from the room.
Her mother was supposed to leave ManorCare to stay with family barely a week after she died, Keith said. So when she got a phone call about Barber’s death, Keith said she became suspicious. Keith told the newspaper that what she wanted from the lawsuit was not money, but an admission of guilt from the corporation and justice for her mother.
Jurors decided that the nursing home corporation was liable for the woman’s death and they punished the corporation by giving Keith one of the biggest awards in New Mexico’s history. But what Keith did not get from what she herself describes as a “nasty process,” was an admission of guilt from the nursing home administrators. They simply said they deny negligence and that Barber got the care she needed when she was there. They say she died simply because of her age and deteriorating health.
Even though a jury awarded $50 million in punitive damages, I’d bet it never gets paid. The amount will get knocked down by judges second-guessing the jury followed by a settlement for a small fraction of the actual award.
ManorCare no longer operates nursing homes in New Mexico after selling its last three homes in 2005, the article reported. As for Keith, she says she is just starting to grieve for her mom because she just now got some closure although ManorCare plans to appeal the decision.
Obviously members of the jury thought they had enough evidence to believe that the nursing home was not only responsible for the death of the plaintiff’s mother, but also that the corporation must be punished for it and for trying to cover it up. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence or abuse, call me, John Bisnar, to find out how you can protect your legal rights. Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys – 800-259-6373.