An 87-year-old woman suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s disease died as a result of dehydration and renal failure in a West Virginia nursing home, allegedly due to medical malpractice at the negligent nursing home where she had been a patient for only 20 days. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the woman was not provided proper hydration during her stay in the nursing home which led to her death.
The West Virginia medical malpractice jury that heard the claims of the parties over a two-week period was so incensed by the trial testimony and evidence presented to them concerning the nursing home’s actions (and lack of action) that it awarded $91.5 million in damages on August 5, 2011 ($11 million for the wrongful death of the elderly woman and $80 million in punitive damages against the nursing home based on its alleged intentional misconduct).
The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the nursing home was understaffed and that the nursing home administrators knew about the understaffing but did not adequately address and resolve the understaffing issues, and that the nursing home failed to provide necessary medical care to the elderly woman.
The elderly woman was able to walk and to communicate when she was first admitted to the nursing home. Twenty days later, she was comatose and unable to walk or feed herself. She was transported to a hospital, where she later died. (Her son tried to transfer his mother out of the nursing home but, despite his best efforts, was unable to do so.)
The jury’s verdict ignited furious debate regarding West Virginia’s cap on medical malpractice damages, last changed in West Virginia in 2003. If the West Virginia cap is applied to the amount of the verdict, then the recovery will be reduced by over 99%.
Some question whether juries in West Virginia should have their verdicts reduced by the law that applies without a rational basis and without exception to verdicts over an artificial ceiling.
Others question whether the life on an 87-year-old is worth $11 million, believing that the lives of the elderly, who may be infirmed and whose life expectancy may be short, are worth less than the lives of those who are healthy and young. Who’s most qualified to make that determination? Our forefathers’ answer: our federal and state constitutions that assign that task to the province of juries who are chosen among our brethren and who have been trusted for hundreds of years to make those determinations on behalf of society.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of neglect or abuse suffered in a nursing home, the law holds the nursing home responsible for its actions. Click here to visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who handle medical malpractice cases against negligent nursing homes or call us toll free at 800-295-3959.
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