On July 22, 2013, a Florida jury awarded $1.2 billion to the family of a 69-year-old nursing home resident who died after repeated falls in the nursing home that the nursing home negligently failed to prevent. The nursing home negligence lawsuit was filed in 2009 and involved years of legal maneuvering by the nursing home’s lawyers. The jury was so incensed as to what the woman endured that it took just over one hour to award $220 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages. But now the real battle begins – will the judgment ever be collected?
The woman had been a resident of the nursing home from 2004 until she died in 2007. The nursing home negligence lawsuit alleged that the nursing home failed to properly supervise the woman which led to her numerous falls (she allegedly had fallen 17 times while she was a resident of the nursing home, with her last fall resulting in a hip fracture after which she was allowed to lay in bed for days before she was sent to the hospital).
The lawsuit alleged that the nursing home was short-staffed and that state and federal money that was supposed to be used for care of the residents was diverted. The lawyer for the woman’s estate was quoted as stating, “It was an enterprise of a conglomerate that took over a nursing home in Polk County and looted the assets of the company, short-staffed it, under budgeted it, and as a result, the nursing home residents were suffering.” Source
The defendants who operated the nursing home alleged that they ceased operating the nursing home on September 30, 2004, and therefore were not responsible for the negligence claims. The defendants made the decision to stop participating in the lawsuit, which resulted in a default judgment being entered against them in 2011. Therefore, the jury did not decide the defendants’ liability for the alleged negligent acts but only decided the amount of the monetary damages to which the plaintiff was entitled.
Despite having the default judgment entered against the defendants in 2011, the defendants’ lawyers were allowed to participate in the jury trial, to present evidence with regard to the damages issue, and to argue to the jury the amount of damages that they believed to be appropriate (the judge denied the defendants’ request to set aside the prior default judgment).
The defendants in this Florida nursing home case are no strangers to nursing home abuse litigation: in 2010, the same defendants were on the losing side of a $114 million jury verdict in the same county. That judgment has not yet been collected. The defendants in the 2010 nursing home abuse case also ceased participating in that lawsuit and a default judgment was entered against them in that case too.
If you or a loved one suffered injury or death as a result of nursing home neglect or nursing home abuse in Florida or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a Florida nursing home claim attorney or a nursing home negligence attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your claim for you and file a nursing home neglect case on your behalf, if appropriate.
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