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Judge upholds multimillion dollar award against nursing home

A judge in another state has denied a nursing home's request for a new trial following a $91.5 million verdict against it. While the home has promised an appeal, for now the nursing home neglect case will stand as a noteworthy verdict that vindicates the rights of elderly patients to enjoy a reasonable standard of care. The decision may prove helpful to New Jersey families whose loved ones experience the consequences of nursing home negligence.

The son of an elderly woman who suffered from dementia brought what started as a seemingly routine wrongful death claim alleging nursing home negligence. The son alleged that while at the home, the woman experienced several falls and eventually could no longer walk.

The complaint also alleged that the woman did not receive proper basic care, such as regular food and water. The attorney who filed the case on her family's behalf even suggested that she died because she was dehydrated, although dehydration was not listed as the official cause of death.

After reviewing the evidence at trial, however, the judge apparently saw this case as an egregious example of a nursing home recklessly trying to keep profits high by refusing to hire additional employees even when the need for help was apparent and critical:

Some of the testimony at the wrongful death trial suggested that patients would oftentimes go without having injuries attended to for several hours. This may have been due to serious staffing shortages that the nursing home facility supposedly tried to cover up.

In the end, the judge found that a severe punitive damages award would be the only way to get the nursing home's attention so that the nursing home would hopefully amend its ways.

Whether the amount of damages will withstand appeal remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that nursing homes have no right to cut their costs when doing so endangers the very lives of those whom they are being paid to protect.

Source: Charleston Gazette, "Judge denies new trial in $91.5 million nursing home verdict," Zac Taylor, April 11, 2013

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