August 2011 Archives

August 11, 2011

Jury awards family $91.5 million for nursing home neglect

A Kanawha County, West Virginia jury awarded an 87-year old woman's family $91.5 million after finding that low staffing levels at a nursing home led to her death.

Our Maryland nursing home neglect attorneys have substantial experience in representing Plaintiff's who have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of nursing home negligence.

The substantial verdict was delivered after a two-week trial where Plaintiffs alleged that workers at Heartland of Charleston (W.V.) failed to feed and care for Dorothy Davis, who died of complications from dehydration after a three week stay at the facility.

The jury deliberated for two hours before awarding $11.5 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages.

The testimony reflected that in the three week period Davis stayed at Heartland, she lost 15 pounds, she became unresponsive and suffered severe dehydration. She died one day after her transfer to a different hospital.

Plaintiffs alleged that Heartland lacked sufficient nurses on staff to care for the woman, which was supported by the testimony of former Heartland employees. In 2009, the nursing home had an employee turnover rate of 112 percent.

Heartland is owned by a parent corporation called Manorcare that has assets of $8 billion.

The nursing home defended on the grounds that the woman's death certificate states that she died of Alzheimer's, not dehydration and that staff did not breach the standard of care in the treatment of the woman.

Carlyle Group, a private equity firm that owns Manorcare, stated that it will appeal the verdict.

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August 2, 2011

Men sue woman who attempted suicide for injuries sustained in her rescue

Two Ohio men sued a woman who in 2009 they pulled to safety from a burning vehicle , when they subsequently learned that the woman's accident resulted when she was attempting to kill herself.

Our Maryland Accident Attorneys have significant experience representing plaintiffs who have been injured by another's negligence.

The two men--David Kelley and Mark Kinkaid--claim that they were both driving when they saw a bumper lying in the roadway and gray smoke coming from a distance. The men hopped a barbed-wire fence, knocked down trees and slid down a steep embankment to attempt to assist the woman in the vehicle. The woman apparently told officers after the accident that she was arguing with someone the day of the crash and wanted to end her life.

Two years later, both have sued the woman in Marion County Common Pleas Court in Ohio seeking damages of at least $25,000 as a result of learning that the crash was her fault and suffering permanent injuries.

With regard to his injuries, Kelley states that his lungs were badly damaged from the heavy smoke and that he now can't carry a laundry basket up the stairs of his home. Furthermore, he said the fire burnt the hair from his body and melted the cell phone in his pocket.

The Ohio case is based on a concept known as the "Rescue Doctrine," that states that if people who are being rescued are negligent or reckless when they created the danger, they could be liable if a rescuer acted reasonably and can prove injuries.

Maryland recognizes the concept of the "rescue doctrine," which is a narrowly chiseled exception to the defense of assumption of risk, which focuses on the element of voluntariness and applies to emergency situations involving imminent peril, in which an individual acts to save the life or property of another. See, e.g., Warsham v. Muscatello, 189 Md. App. 620, 645 (2009). This would undoubtedly be asserted by the Plaintiffs if this case arose in Maryland.

Maryland also, however, recognizes the common law defense of "assumption of risk." An assumption of risk is a defense to negligence if the plaintiff 1) had knowledge of the risk of danger, 2) appreciated the risk, and 3) voluntarily exposed himself or herself to that risk. See, e.g., Crews v. Hollenbach, 358 Md. 627, 643-44 (2000). This defense would likely be asserted by the defendant if this case rose in Maryland.

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