Kentucky jury awards $1.108 million to nursing home abuse victim's family

November 17, 2016 – Press Release

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. – On Nov. 17, 2016, a Hardin County jury awarded $1.108 million to the family of a woman who died as a result of neglect and medically unnecessary therapy in an Elizabethtown nursing home.

Lou Vena Jones was a resident at Elizabethtown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center from Dec. 31, 2009, and except for hospitalizations, remained there until Oct. 14, 2012.

While there she was sent to the hospital seven times. She developed severe infections, including sepsis and colitis. Ms. Jones also suffered a severely fractured femur after receiving medically unnecessary therapy. She endured the fracture for five days; it went untreated despite staff noting the bruising, swelling and pain.

The hospital determined that she wouldn’t benefit from surgery and sent her back to the nursing home. The nursing home failed to provide enough staff to properly turn and reposition her, so over the course of nine days the fractured bone burst through the skin. Ms. Jones returned to the hospital, where she was also diagnosed with numerous bedsores.

After her hospitalization, Ms. Jones spent three weeks in another rehabilitation facility before passing away on Jan. 26, 2013.

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Lou Vena Jones grew up poor, the daughter of a coal miner. She was part of a duo called the Singing Rose Sisters with her sister, Rosa Mae. The two competed in a contest in Corbin, Kentucky, and won, giving them a chance to move on to further competition in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry. Later, she would sing in nursing homes to help cheer the residents.

By the time Ms. Jones needed nursing care herself, she could not speak or move. Medical records showed that for much of her stay at the nursing home, Ms. Jones was in a vegetative state and that her rehab potential was poor. Her family wanted her to be as comfortable and free from pain as possible until it was her time to go.

Instead, when a new company, Preferred Care Inc. and its various subsidiaries, took over operation of the facility in July 2012, her records suddenly noted that she demonstrated good rehab potential. As a consequence, she was put through painful, unnecessary physical therapy that resulted in the fractured femur.

Wilkes & McHugh attorneys Ross Mann and Lisa Circeo argued at trial that a nursing home is never allowed to put a vulnerable resident through painful therapies that have no medical justification. They must contact the resident’s guardian to get permission before performing therapy, and the guardian has a right to refuse those therapies.  Also, patients must have a realistic chance of improving to justify ordering therapy for them.

Mr. Mann argued that the facility and its corporate owners gave patients unnecessary therapies so they could charge more and get higher reimbursements from Medicare. The defendants violated a number of safety rules, including failing to call the family for consent for treatment, failing to notify her physician in a timely manner, failing to accurately and adequately plan for her care, failing to have sufficient staffing numbers, and initiating medically unjustified therapies that caused Ms. Jones pain, injury and ultimately death.

The trial began on Oct. 31, 2016, and the jury returned its verdict on Nov. 17, 2016. The case is Debra Searcy, as Administratrix of the Estate of Lou Vena Jones, deceased, v. Elizabethtown Health Facilities, L.P. d/b/a Elizabethtown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, et. al.

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