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Bell v. Williams Care Center, Inc. (226 Neb. 1, 409 N.W.2d 294)

Abuse-and-neglect-in-Nebraska-nursing-homes-300x205Articles: Nebraska

Bell v. Williams Care Center, Inc. (226 Neb. 1, 409 N.W.2d 294)

CASE:
Bell v. Williams Care Center, Inc. (226 Neb. 1, 409 N.W.2d 294)
PARTIES:
Plaintiff (Appellee) – Thelma Bell, Personal Representative of the Estate of Linnie Early (deceased)
Defendant (Appellant) – Williams Care Center, Inc.
COURT:
Supreme Court of Nebraska (1987)
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Bell, on behalf of Linnie Early, brought action against defendant nursing home for wrongful death and sought general damages for pain and suffering, improper care, and related damages. After a trial, a jury returned a verdict for the defendant. Bell made a motion for a new trial. The trial court denied the motion. Bell appealed.
SUMMARY OF FACTS:
In October of 1980, Linnie Early (deceased) moved into Williams Care Manor nursing home. She was 62 at the time and suffered from multiple health issues requiring 24-hour-a-day care. Dr. Kemp, Early’s physician since 1962, submitted a report when Early entered the nursing home detailing her ailments. They included CVA (“cerebral vascular accident,” similar to a stroke) with left side paralysis, Hypertension and Diabetes.

 

On December 9, 1981 Ms. Early had her toenails cut by a podiatrist that was brought into the nursing home. She complained that she suffered a cut on her toe at that time. On December 10, a nurse’s aide removed white gauze from Early’s toe and noticed a deep cut with drainage coming from it. On December 31, a doctor was called in and he noted that the toe had an area that looked like it had been cut but there was healthy skin which appeared to be healed. On January 18, 192, Early complained of pain in the toe. The doctor noticed early signs of infection or gangrene. She was then admitted into the hospital. On January 22, 1982, Early underwent an arteriogram to measure the blood flow to her leg. It was very low. After a couple of other methods failed, Early had her gangrenous toes amputated. On March 8 she suffered a heart attack. On March 18, once she was stabilized from the effects of the heart attack, Early had an above the knee amputation of her left leg. No complications were noted at that time. On March 20, Early suffered “urinary kidney shutdown” and died that day of cardiac arrest.

 

OUTCOME AT TRIAL:
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the nursing home finding no evidence to support the plaintiff’s claims.
ISSUES ON APPEAL:
1) Did the trial court abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of the surgeons that defendants presented as expert witnesses?

2) Was there evidence to support the jury’s verdict?

 

SUPREME COURT HOLDINGS:
1) No

2) Yes

 

RELEVANT APPLICATION OF LAW:
 

The admission of opinion testimony of an expert is generally discretionary with the trial court.

 

Without specific objection to the qualifications of a witness as an expert, admission of opinion testimony of an expert is not an abuse of the trial court’s discretion.

– Bernadt v. Suburban Air, Inc., 221 Neb. 537, 378 N.W.2d 852 (1985)

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