Tampa jury awards $17.25 million in nursing home case

September 23, 2016 – Press Release

TAMPA, FL – On Thursday, September 22, 2016, a Hillsborough County jury awarded $16.25 million in compensatory damages to the widow of a man who died after suffering falls and a broken neck in a Tampa nursing home.

In additional court proceedings on Friday, September 23, the jury also awarded $1 million in punitive damages after hearing evidence that the staff let the man sit for several hours with a broken neck without telling the family or calling for help. Evidence showed the nursing home, Bayshore Pointe Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, located at 3117 West Gandy Blvd., was chronically short-staffed.

William Yarawsky was a longtime South Tampa resident. He worked at St. Patrick’s Catholic School for 25 years as an electrician and handyman and was eventually ordained a deacon. He served at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, as well as 12 years at the chapel at MacDill Air Force Base.

When William was diagnosed with dementia in 2007, his wife, Theresa, a pediatric nurse, cared for him at home for nearly five years. He eventually needed more skilled care and became a resident at Bayshore Pointe Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Dec. 14, 2009.

Despite being at risk for falls, Mr. Yarawsky was left unattended in his wheelchair in a hallway. A state inspection of the facility as a result of a complaint from the family found that at least half of the sampled residents who were at risk for falls did not have the proper precautions in place – clear examples of doctors’ orders that were not being followed.

Staffing documentation for the facility revealed that employee hours were cut below what was needed to care for all of the residents. William Yarawsky suffered numerous falls in the facility, with one resulting in lacerations to the front and back of his head requiring several stitches, and another that resulted in a broken neck. He also endured numerous other injuries, many of which were unexplained, during his time at the nursing home.

The day of the final fall, the nursing home staff did not call the family or the doctor; they simply returned him to his wheelchair. It wasn’t until when his wife came to visit that she noticed he was in pain. Still, the facility staff delayed sending him to the hospital for several hours. Once there, X-rays confirmed a serious spinal cord injury. He suffered for 10 days before passing away on Oct. 11, 2010.

The lawsuit, the Estate of William S. Yarawsky vs. Sovereign Healthcare of Tampa, LLC, et. al., was originally filed in 2011.  Kathleen Knight and Bennie Lazzara Jr. were the attorneys for the case.

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