On March 12, 2014, a Maryland jury returned its verdict in the amount of $1 million in favor of the estate of a former resident of a Maryland assisted living facility for the pain and suffering the 86-year-old woman suffered before her death on March 26, 2012. The four-woman, two-man jury deliberated for six hours after a six-day trial before returning their $1 million verdict (which will be reduced to $710,000 pursuant to Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases that was in effect at that time). The defendant assisted living facility had blamed the resident’s adult son for her death.
The Underlying Facts
The woman’s son and his wife had built an addition to their home so that the elderly woman who suffered from dementia and other medical problems could live with them and they could take care of her. After two years, it became too difficult for them to provide the necessary care on their own. Therefore, in July 2011, they arranged for the woman to be cared for at the assisted care facility that had opened near them three years earlier. The son and his four siblings put their trust in the assisted living facility’s promise that their mother would be safe and well-cared-for at the facility.
The Assisted Living Facility (ALF) Claim
During the morning on March 25, 2012, the woman was found by an aide to be cold, clammy, sweaty, and she had a fever. A certified medical aide was supposed to examine the woman but failed to do so. When the evening shift arrived later that day, they were not advised about the woman’s condition and there was no nurse present during the overnight shift, according to the assisted living facility lawsuit filed on behalf of the woman’s estate and her five children.
During the night, the woman had multiple episodes of diarrhea, vomiting, and rectal bleeding. The woman was moved from her room and several aides thought that the woman should be sent to a hospital emergency room but their supervisor said that the woman’s son gave instructions to not be called after 9:00 p.m. (which the son adamantly denied during the trial). The son was finally called at 12:30 a.m. on March 26, 2012, during which his mother’s rectal bleeding was not mentioned and her condition was downplayed, according to the son.
Early in the morning, aides placed the woman in the shower and noticed that she was cold, very pale, and not fully responsive; she stopped breathing for 30 seconds. A supervisor at the assisted living facility telephoned the son at 5:00 a.m. and advised him that she would check on his mother in a few hours. The son called the assisted living facility two hours later and was told that his mother had low blood pressure; he requested that the facility’s physician be called regarding his mother’s condition.
The son arrived at the facility at 8:00 a.m. and found that the facility’s doctor had not been called. The doctor was called at that time, who instructed the facility’s staff to have the woman immediately transported to the hospital, but the woman died before the paramedics arrived.
The defendant assisted living facility blamed the woman’s death on her son, alleging that his actions resulted in the delay in getting his mother to the hospital sooner. The jury rejected the defense and found that the son had not been contributorily negligent. The jury determined that the defendant assisted living facility was responsible for the woman’s unnecessary pain and suffering before her death but the jury did not find that the defendant assisted living facility was responsible for the woman’s death.
Kathleen Woodcock, et al. v. Hart Heritage Of Forest Hill, Inc., et al., Circuit Court for Harford County, Case No. 12-C-13-000309.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while living in an assisted living facility in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly contact a local assisted living facility claim attorney in your state who may investigate your ALF claim for you and represent you in an ALF claim, if appropriate.
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