Date of Verdict:
Court and Case No.:
C.P. Dauphin No. 2009-cv-10920.
Type of Action:
Toe infection, dehydration, malnourishment.
Ruben J. Krisztal, Wilkes & McHugh, Philadelphia.
David T. Bush and Michael F. Schleigh, Forry Ullman, King of Prussia.
Dr. Loren Lipson, causation, Los Angeles.
Dr. Roger E. Nieman, causation, Abington.
A Dauphin County jury sided with both the defense and the plaintiff in two separate verdicts issued in a case in which a woman claimed her mother had received insufficient care while a resident first at a personal care facility and, subsequently, at a skilled nursing facility, both owned by the same organization.
While the jury issued a defense verdict with regard to the personal care facility, it awarded the plaintiff $30,000 for negligence on behalf of the skilled nursing facility.
According to the pretrial statement of plaintiff Linda F. Laff, daughter of plaintiffs-decedent Lillian Glass, Glass was admitted in June 2005 to the Residences for Senior Living, the personal care facility owned and operated by defendant Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg with no history of falls.
By July 2006, however, an assessment note stated that Glass — who, according to court documents, was in her 90s at the time — had poor safety awareness and required around-the-clock care, the plaintiff’s statement said.
Glass fell three times while living at the Residences, according to the plaintiff’s statement, and plaintiffs causation expert Dr. Loren Lipson opined that Glass was kept in the personal care facility past the time when she should have been transferred to a long-term care facility.
Despite falling once in November 2006 and twice in August 2008, having several debridements of her left foot in 2008 and starting two new medications in July 2008 with sedative side effects, the facility never developed a fall precaution plan for Glass, according to the plaintiff’s statement.
During one fall in 2008, according to the plaintiff’s statement, Glass broke two bones in her right foot. During the other, in August 2008, she fractured her right hip and required surgery.
Though Glass complained of feeling dizzy before that last fall and was on medication for which one of the side effects was dizziness, the plaintiff’s statement alleged that there was no record that facility staff was monitoring Glass’ blood pressure.
The plaintiff’s statement claimed the last fall could have been prevented if Residences staff had recognized sooner that Glass needed to be moved out of the independent living facility and into the skilled nursing facility.
The defense, however, argued in its own pretrial statement that there was no evidence to support the claim that Glass had been a fall risk.
According to the defense statement, it was never confirmed that Glass broke her hip in the August 2008 fall, rather than slipped off a bench after her hip broke from osteoporosis.
Following her hip surgery in August 2008, according to the plaintiff’s statement, Glass was moved to the nursing home facility, where she remained until October 2008.
Lipson opined that during this stay, there was “deficient oversight” of Glass, leading to the development or exacerbation of pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections and osteomyelitis with dehydration and weight loss stemming from a worsening of her toe injury.
According to the plaintiff’s statement, facility staff failed to turn and reposition Glass in her bed every two hours and did not perform several weekly ordered skin checks.
Facility staff also failed to adequately monitor Glass’ nutrition and, as a result, she lost 20 pounds within her first month at the nursing care facility, according to the plaintiff’s statement.
The defense, however, maintained in its statement that once Glass was moved to the nursing home, she began hallucinating, making false reports about her care to her daughter and refusing to eat or drink.
Glass also refused to follow orders regarding her foot care and had trouble healing because of pre-existing peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, according to the defense’s statement.
In October 2008, Glass was sent to the emergency room for osteomyelitis, according to the plaintiff’s statement. From there, she was transferred to hospice, where she died in November 2008.
But the defense argued in its statement that, during her last hospitalization, Glass’ toe was found to be gangrenous because of her PVD, not because of nursing home neglect.
Jewish Home’s attorney, David T. Bush, said the defense’s causation expert, Roger Nieman, testified that nothing the staff at the skilled nursing facility did or didn’t do could have prevented Glass’ toe from becoming gangrenous.
“I feel the jury accepted that, particularly because it was consistent with what her treating physician said,” Bush said, explaining that while his client did concede some negligence on the part of the skilled nursing facility, it argued that there was no harm caused by that negligence.
At trial, the 12-member jury was presented with two separate verdict slips: one for the personal care facility and one for the skilled nursing facility.
Ultimately, the jury voted 10-2 in favor of the defense with regard to the personal care facility, but 11-1 to award Laff $30,000 with regard to the skilled nursing facility.
Bush, who tried the case with Michael F. Schleigh, said he was “very, very pleased” with the overall outcome of the case.
Plaintiffs counsel Ruben J. Krisztal could not be reached for comment.
— Zack Needles, of the Law Weekly •