Practicing Law With a Passion for the Rights of the Individual

Jury awards $114 million in nursing home lawsuit

BARTOW, Fla. - On July 20, 2010, a Polk County jury handed down a $114 million verdict in a nursing home abuse case that resulted in an elderly woman's death. It is believed to be one of the largest verdicts ever in Polk County.

The family of Juanita Jackson, a 76-year-old homemaker and mother of four, had to place her in nursing home for rehabilitation in March 2003. Their plan was for Juanita to regain her strength at IHS of Florida at Auburndale (now known as Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center) so her children could resume caring for her at home. But that was not to be.

Trans Healthcare, Inc. and Trans Healthcare Management operated the nursing home at the time of Jackson's residency. During that period, the company also operated more than 200 nursing homes in 22 states and was the largest private nursing home chain in the United States.

Blair N. Mendes and A. Lance Reins with Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. in Tampa represented Jackson's family in the case.

"We hope this verdict will send a message to nursing home operators, especially big corporations, that it is not acceptable to put profits before people," Mendes said. "Nursing home residents deserve attentive, dignified care."

The nursing home staff knew when Juanita Jackson was admitted that she was at risk for falls, but they did not put proper preventative measures in place. Within two weeks of her admission, they allowed her to fall. It was a catastrophic injury; Jackson suffered a closed head trauma and fractured her upper arm. She never fully recovered from her injuries and became more dependent on the nursing home staff than ever before.

Moreover, the nursing home was chronically short-staffed with overworked employees. Patients suffered. Juanita Jackson suffered. They didn't turn her enough or elevate her heels to prevent the development of bedsores. She got multiple bedsores, including at least one that rotted to the bone. They didn't give her enough to eat and drink, causing her to become malnourished and dehydrated. Juanita was also overmedicated during her stay. She was left to lie in bed so long that she developed contractures, where the muscles shrivel up, making movement even more difficult.

Jackson's family removed her from the nursing home on May 30, 2003, but it was too late. Her health continued to deteriorate, and she died July 6, 2003.

"While a verdict like this will not bring Juanita Jackson back, we hope that it will make a difference for her family, as well as all nursing home residents in Polk County," said attorney Lance Reins.

The case, Juanita Jackson v. IHS at Auburndale n/k/a Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center, was filed in the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court in Polk County. The jury heard from former caregivers, including a staffing coordinator, a certified nurse's assistant and a nurse, who all testified that the home maintained terrible conditions, such as not enough staff or supplies, and that the patients suffered as a result. They also heard testimony from a doctor and a medical expert about how Juanita Jackson's terrible injuries resulted from the poor treatment and led to her death.