Jury awards $18 million to family in nursing home abuse case

June 25, 2015 – Press Release

MADISON COUNTY, KY – On June 25, 2015, a jury awarded $18 million to the family of a woman who was injured as a result of fractures, contractures (her arms and legs were frozen to her body and disfigured from lack of range of motion exercises), bone deep bedsores and infections she suffered at The Terrace Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility in Berea.

In March 2004, Eliza Jennings, an 89-year-old widow, was admitted to the nursing home following hospitalization for a leg fracture. During her time at the facility, she suffered multiple injuries, including a right leg fracture.

Ms. Jennings developed several deep bedsores, including sores down to the bone and infections, including E. coli. One of the sores was the size of a softball and left her tailbone and nerve endings completely exposed, causing excruciating pain. She also had painful joint contractures, multiple urinary tract infections and skin injuries throughout her stay – further signs that the nursing home staff failed to provide proper care.  Evidence was presented at trial that the facility had a policy of leaving residents in wet diapers for extended periods of time to save on costs.

Plaintiff presented evidence that Alzheimer’s disease is not an excuse for poor care and neglect.  Regardless of a person’s age and conditions, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

The verdict included $4 million for compensatory damages, $4.5 million for violation of the Resident’s Rights statute, and $9.5 million in punitive damages.

“We respect and appreciate the jurors’ hard work and dedication to seeking the truth,” said Corey Fannin, an attorney with Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. who represented the family at trial. “This was a member of the community that suffered needlessly.  We are happy the court system sent a clear message today that the elderly deserve to be protected and are our society’s most valued asset.”

Eliza Jennings was born in Garrard County. A petite, yet feisty lady, she rose to the position of Postmaster of the Berea College Post Office during her career. After retiring, she took a job at the Holiday Motel until she was 80 years old. Throughout her entire professional life, she also helped her husband strip tobacco and milk cattle on their farm on Paint Lick Road. She was active and still driving until she broke her leg and needed to go to the nursing home for rehabilitation.

The lawsuit alleged negligence and violation of Long Term Care Resident's Rights on the part of the nursing home for failing to prevent accidents, failing to prevent and promote healing of bedsores, and failing to prevent infections.

At trial, attorneys Corey Fannin and Ross Mann explained how the facility consistently put profits over people by failing to provide enough staff to care for Eliza Jennings (so she did not get turned and repositioned as needed or the range-of-motion exercises she needed), refusing to ensure she was provided the nutritional supplements she needed, and failing to notify her doctor and her family of her worsening condition.

The nursing home operators accepted federal and state funds in return for providing care to Eliza Jennings and the other residents in the facility, but ultimately did not provide that care. That misuse of federal and state money is a burden on the health care system.

James W. Jennings, Eliza Jennings’ grandson, hired Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. to file a negligence lawsuit against The Terrace Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility over the injuries to his grandmother. The suit was filed in Madison County Circuit Court on March 31, 2010. In addition to Corey Fannin, attorney Ross Mann also represented the family at trial, which lasted eight days. The jury deliberated for about five hours before reaching its verdict.

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