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Jury Awards Family $700,000 after Nursing Home Resident Overdose

Elder neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that Normandy Nursing Center in St. Louis, Missouri was recently ordered to pay $700,000 after the death of a mentally ill resident who overdosed on a painkiller he was never prescribed to. It still remains unclear how he had access to the drug.

The resident, William Christopher Jones, was only 46 years old at the time of his death. He was not permitted to leave the nursing home at all, and anything he may have received prior to his overdose had to have come from either the nursing home or its staff. During the weeklong trial, Normandy employees, among other witnesses, testified that pain pills were sometimes left unattended on a counter in the nursing station. Some patients at Normandy were also prescribed morphine injections, which is the pain drug Jones overdosed from.

The local police started an investigation into his death after toxicology reports showed Jones had a lethal level of morphine in his system at the time of his death. The police, however, did not file any charges against the nursing center after they determined that all lots of the center’s morphine supply were accounted for. Missouri state health officials also failed to file any violations against Normandy pertaining to Jones’ death.

In its most recent Medicare inspection, Normandy Nursing Center received a below-average rating of two out of five starts. In December 2012, the facility was cited for failing to control resident’s weight loss. Significant weight loss in nursing home residents is a major red flag of neglect, as malnutrition occurs often in residents who are cognitively incapable of remembering to properly feed themselves. Malnutrition and dehydration may also be a sign of nursing home abuse; some malicious employees may purposefully withhold food and drinks from residents as retribution, or to punish residents for acts they cannot control, such as soiling bed sheets.

In 2011, the Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services, which is an agency that handles allegations of abuse and neglect of people with disabilities, initiated an investigation into the Normandy Nursing Center. The investigation stemmed from the hospitalization of a 37-year-old resident who was found to be severely dehydrated, malnourished, and was suffering from kidney failure. The investigation is still ongoing.

Although Normandy was ordered to pay the family for Jones’ wrongful death, it remains unclear exactly how he obtained the morphine that killed him. Medication in nursing homes is, for an array of reasons, very abundant, and all pharmaceuticals must always be kept under the careful watch of employees. Any unlocked cabinets, unattended nursing carts, or bottles left on counters may lead to the accidental death of residents.

Unfortunately, overmedication is also a major issue in long-term care facilities throughout the country. Recently, in California, the Department of Public Health issued its most severe citation to a facility after a resident died from overmedication. The violation was ordered when the resident’s blood-thinning medication levels were 18 times the normal dose.

The resident was admitted to Lincoln Meadows Care Center in 2006 after suffering a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. After staying at Lincoln Meadows for five years, the resident fell from his wheelchair and hit his lead, leaving with significant internal injury, although he was not immediately hospitalized.

Only at the insistence of his daughter was he sent to the hospital, where extensive blood vessel rupturing was discovered. This caused a lethal amount of blood to lead into his brain and compress the tissue. Ultimately, his death was determined to be caused by the excessive amount of Coumadin – a blood-thinning medication – in his system, which carries an increased risk of bleeding, particularly in the elderly.

Overmedication and wrongful medication in nursing homes are major indications that residents are being habitually abused or neglected. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a nursing home as the result of abuse or neglect, you have important legal rights. Senior abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience advocating for elders and their families, and can help you receive the largest settlement possible for your suffering.