A Philadelphia jury awarded $5 million in punitive damages to the widow of a man who died from bed sores he developed during a hospitalization and then worsened during a subsequent nursing home admission.
The case, believed to be the first of its kind in terms of awarding punitive damages against a nursing home in Philadelphia courts, was allocated: $1.5 million against Jeanes Hospital and $3.5 million against Hillcrest Convalescent Home.
According to widow’s lawyer, Steven R. Maher, Jeans Hospital failed to diagnose the man’s urinary tract infection that contributed to the development of bed sores (also referred to as: pressure sores, pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers) and then the man was transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home where the bed sores worsened. Despite his wife’s best efforts to care for her husband at home, the man succumbed to the bed sores approximately two years after he developed them.
This punitive damage award is in addition to a $1 million compensatory damage award a jury had previously awarded in the case. Incidentally, Jeanes Hospital is part of the Temple University Health System and Hillcrest is owned by Genesis HealthCare Corp., a large nursing home operator in the Northeast.
While punitive damages are rare due to the high threshold an injured party must prove, in this case ‘outrageous and reckless conduct’, it doesn’t surprise me that these type of damages were awarded in a bed sore case.
Obviously, the plaintiff’s lawyers did a great job presenting their case, but when jurors hear and see how devastating a bed sore can be, it most definitely evokes feelings of rage– when they see how a medical facilities neglect resulted in such devastating injuries such as advanced bed sores.