A nursing home facility in Kanawha County West Virginia recently lost its appeal to reconsider a sizable verdict awarded in a case that went to trial two years earlier. The lawsuit investigates whether the limits established for medical malpractice apply to nursing homes. It borders on whether the defendant, HCR Manor Care, looked to garner more profits by withholding staff to cut costs.
The Charges against HCR Manor Care
In 2009, a facility owned by HCR Manor Car, LLC took charge for an 87- year old woman. Just 19 days after admittance, the elderly lady died of dehydration. The lawsuit filed by her son claims that there were a number of abuses on his mother during her short stay at the nursing home
The investigation shows not only did the woman fail to receive proper food and water, the general care was lacking, as well. Her body showed sign of head trauma due to several falls. Her mouth had sores that required surgical removal, as well. It was the lack of proper nutrition, however, that contributed to her death.
The Nursing Home Lawsuit
The initial findings by the Kanawha County Circuit judge were in favor of the plaintiff. The elderly victim’s family received an award for 91.5 million dollars. The judgment included 80 million punitive and 11.5 million dollars compensatory payment.
HCR Manor Care appealed the initial verdict claiming that the high judgment against them violated West Virginia’s malpractice caps. If true, the restriction would lower the payout by the company to just 500,000 dollars. The plaintiff’s attorneys countered that medical malpractice caps were designed for physicians, not a broad blanket rule for all medical services.
Court Upholds the Findings
At first, the judgment was sent back to the residing court for review. The reigning judge ruled against the cap motion stating that the nursing home did not fall into the purview of the state law covering health care providers. At the time, the court reviewed the company’s ability to pay such a large judgment, as well. Financial records show the establishment made just 75 million dollars in 2009. In addition, as of 2011, they no longer qualified for Medicare and Medicaid funding because of care violations.
Further review by the West Virginia Supreme Court supported the initial finding by the county judge. Next, the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that the lower judges failed to consider other restrictions such as the Federal Arbitration Act. This sent the case back to West Virginia. After taking another look, the lower court decided the nursing home was not covered by the FAA framework either.
The Advantage of these Rulings
This nursing home lawsuit, though not yet fully decided, does offer some promising implications. With just 500,000 at stake, there is little to keep these institutions honest. A nursing home lawsuit that can cost them millions means they are more likely to follow proper healthcare standards and improve the quality of life for elderly individuals in their care.