Experience

Jury awards $2.25 million verdict in case where woman suffered multiple falls, fractures

Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania

Plaintiff: James Temple, Attorney-in-Fact for Elma Temple
Defendant: Providence Care Center 
Amount: $2.25 million verdict
Compensatory Damages: $2 million
Punitive Damages: $250,000
Alleged Injuries: Negligence and corporate negligence in a case where a nursing home resident suffered falls and a fractured pelvis and shoulder

Description: Elma “Betty” Temple was 81 and a resident of Providence Care Center since 2008. In February 2011, her dementia worsened to the point where she was moved to the Memory Impaired Unit (“MIU”), however she remained ambulatory and otherwise physically able for her condition. As such, Betty was without a doubt a fall risk, and care plans confirmed that she needed, at the very least, supervision while ambulating.

Medical records indicated she required one person assistance with ambulation and transfers. Despite this, Betty was documented to have been allowed to walk independently (without any supervision or assistance whatsoever) hundreds of times after she was transferred to the MIU. This reckless lack of supervision is not surprising given the trial testimony about the many union grievances complaining that the nursing home did not have sufficient staff to meet the needs of the residents, including providing appropriate supervision and assistance.

Given the condition of the residents on the MIU, the head of the union requested more staff for that unit, but that request was refused. Not surprisingly, Betty had two fall episodes in the weeks prior to her fall in November of 2011, once while pushing another resident in a wheelchair (unsupervised) and another explained fall event during the night in her room. Despite these falls, Betty’s fall care plan was not updated, and the ongoing problem of Betty being allowed to walk independently was not corrected.

On November 28, 2011, just before noon, Betty was left alone in the dining room without supervision. She got up from where she was sitting, began to walk toward a ramp leading out of the dining area, and fell, fracturing her shoulder and pelvis. While Providence Care Center somehow claims she was being supervised at the time, the first person to see that Betty had fallen was a hospice chaplain who happened to be in the dining room. Incredibly, the chaplain had to alert the nearest staff member that Betty had fallen, as staff was unaware. This was not an isolated occurrence.

Providence was cited for a fall that happened in the same area of the MIU, also resulting from the staff not supervising a resident, only five months prior. Fall logs indicated that other falls had recently occurred in the dining area as well. Betty’s pain was so intense when she fell that she vomited, and staff compounded this pain by moving her to a chair and back to her bed before EMS arrived. The fractures were treated conservatively, and Betty suffered pain and loss of mobility for almost a year. As late as May of 2012, Betty was noted to be complaining of “constant” pain in her shoulder. Betty’s suffering was no doubt exacerbated by her dementia, rendering her unable to remember why she was in such pain, and causing her to suffer anew every time she was conscious.

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