Jury compensates familiy for neglect

Chad Trammel and his team of nursing home lawyers did a great job in a difficult trial.  The multi chain (and infamous) Beverly Enterprises has been found negligent in the death of  resident and ordered to pay $1.4 million in compensatory damages.

After deliberating on Monday, the Ouachita County jury agreed on $875,000 in punitive damages in the case. The company was sued for the April 2005 death of Herman Johnson.

Johnson went into the nursing home March 18, 2005. Two weeks later, he was found unresponsive in his wheelchair in the dining room. Two nurses tried to revive Johnson before an ambulance took him to Ouachita County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. An examination of the body found bed sores and evidence of malnutrition and dehydration–clear signs of serious neglect.

The suit claimed the nursing home was insufficiently staffed to provide adequate care for Johnson. Lawyers for Beverly said Johnson’s condition was due to long-term alcohol abuse and other chronic health problems, including anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure. They say Johnson also had a history of refusing to take vitamins and medicine prescribed for him.

The trial began earlier this month, and the jury announced its decision Friday along with the award of compensatory damages. The jury found the defendants also had acted recklessly and had deprived Johnson of his rights as a resident of the home.

Beverly Healthcare is one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains. Over the course of the eight-day trial, the 12-person jury heard testimony from a variety of Beverly representatives, medical experts, and other witnesses. Among the documents displayed during the trial were internal Beverly e-mails referring to the company’s own nursing assistants as “trash” and “misfits” who posed a “hazard” to the residents. According to Beverly’s own officials, the company was not able to retain quality nursing assistants because it refused to raise its wages by $1.00 per hour.

The plaintiffs also introduced evidence showing that the company recently paid its executives $138 million in bonuses. Finally, the jury heard from Beverly Director of Operations David Mills, who took the stand and compared running a nursing home to owning an automobile dealership.

“This jury sent a powerful message to Beverly and all the other nursing-home mega-chains that neglect their residents in order to boost profits,” said Chad Trammell, a partner with Nix, Patterson & Roach and the attorney who represented the plaintiffs. “The people they are abusing are our mothers, our fathers, and our grandparents. These companies have a duty to care for their residents, and that duty is more important than maximizing shareholder return and paying out huge executive bonuses.”