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Despite a jury’s $50 million award for what it found was the negligent treatment of a West Virginia woman, the decision will cost her intermediate care provider just $5 million. The woman died from complications related to a gangrenous gall bladder condition that had allegedly been ignored by the facility for nine months, despite repeated requests for medical attention. A statutory cap would have ordinarily limited the compensatory damages award to $1 million. A high-low agreement left the defendant on the hook for $5 million. Because of that agreement, Judge Thomas A. Bedell sent the jury home before it could return a punitive damages award, a lawyer for her family said. The lawyer, James G. Bordas Jr. of Wheeling, W.Va.’s Bordas & Bordas, added that jurors told him they had intended to award $100 million in punitives. In December 1998, 57-year-old Toni Meredith was admitted to Heartland of Preston County, an intermediate care facility in Kingwood, W.Va., for physical therapy to help her recover from Guillain Barr� Syndrome, a disorder that inflames nerves and causes weakness and often mild paralysis. She had suffered from it for a year before her admission. Bordas, who tried the case with associate Christopher J. Regan, said that Meredith spent nine months in the Kingwood facility and at another Heartland facility in Clarksburg, W.Va., and never received any physical therapy in either. In January 1999, Meredith suffered an undiagnosed gall bladder attack. In April, she suffered another attack and her family insisted that a doctor see her. But it was six days before Heartland’s medical director saw her and he failed to perform an abdominal exam or order any tests. The problem remained undiagnosed. In September, she suffered a third attack and her family again demanded a doctor. But it wasn’t until Meredith herself insisted on being taken to the hospital that she was diagnosed with a gangrenous gall bladder. She died of complications less than a month later. Her son sued, claiming that the delayed diagnosis cost Meredith her life. Stephen M. Houghton and Melvin F. O’Brien of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote in Wheeling, counsel for the defendant, did not return a call for comment.

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