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$1.1 billion award in nursing home negligence lawsuit

When Louisiana families make the difficult decision to send a loved one to a nursing home, they trust that the operators and staffers at the home will always keep their residents' interests first and foremost. Sadly, the people who run these homes sometimes put their own financial interests first, resulting in sub-standard care and injury to residents.

A jury has awarded $1.1 billion in damages to a man whose mother died after six years in a nursing home where the care was well below standards. The award represents $110 million in compensatory damages for the medical costs and suffering the nursing home caused to the woman and a striking $1 billion in punitive damages to hold the business behind the nursing home accountable for its corruption and negligence.

The unusual case involved a woman who suffered a stroke while in her 60s and required 24-hour care. Her son made the painful decision to move her into a nursing home, but apparently did not realize that the home he chose was understaffed and poorly supplied. The woman, who had worked as a nurse earlier in her life, had 18 falls during her six years at the home. One fall resulted in a hip fracture that the home's overworked and apparently underprepared staffers didn't detect for a week. She also contracted infections and other illnesses and suffered from malnutrition and dehydration. She died in 2007 at the age of 69 after receiving little to no care from the nursing home.

The nursing home was controlled by a group of investors who set up an organization called Trans Health Care, Inc. Investigations revealed that the investors planned to run the nursing home and other facilities into insolvency, so as to maximize their profits, with no regard for how their plans would affect the patients.

While the award in this case is unusually large and some of the details may be unique, the general outline is all too common. When nursing homes fail to live up to professional standards of patient care, either because of poor management, nurse negligence or some other reason; the vulnerable people in their charge can suffer greatly. Sadly, the families of these victims may not find out about the mistreatment until it is too late. Louisiana families who fear that their loved ones have been the victims of negligence in nursing homes should get help understanding their legal options.

Source: WTSP.com, "Polk jury awards $1.1 billion in nursing home case," Kristin Weber, July 25, 2013

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