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W.Va. nursing home verdict cut to $37 million

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A $90 million verdict resulting from a medical malpractice case against a Charleston nursing home will be reduced to about $37 million, state Supreme Court justices ruled Wednesday.

Tom Douglas filed the lawsuit against Heartland of Charleston, owned by Manor Care Inc., alleging severe neglect led to the death of his 87-year-old mother, Dorothy Douglas.

Douglas’ attorneys argued she died from dehydration.

His lawyers at the time said in a brief that Dorothy Douglas could walk and communicate with family when she was admitted to Heartland. It also said her physician thought she would live for several more years with proper care.

However, after her stay, Douglas’ attorneys stated she was “dehydrated, malnourished, bed ridden and barely responsive” and had suffered head trauma from several falls.

Nursing home attorneys asserted that she died from dementia, which is listed as the cause of death on her death certificate. They also said she died in Hospice of Huntington 18 days after her stay at Heartland.

In 2011, a Kanawha County jury awarded about $91.5 million to Douglas’ family. Attorneys appeared before the state Supreme Court earlier this year, arguing whether the Medical Professional Liability Act would cap the award.

Wednesday’s decision reduced the $80 million in punitive damages to about $32 million and cut $11.5 million in compensatory damages to about $5 million.

 Of the $9.5 million in compensatory damages, $4.5 million was awarded in noneconomic damages and $5 million was awarded for a breach of fiduciary duty.

After the decision, Ben Bailey, who represented the nursing home, said in an email to the Daily Mail, “We appreciate the relief the Court has granted to this point. For now, we will be reviewing the majority’s 76 page opinion, and the accompanying concurrences and dissents, as both parties weigh their options…

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