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Nursing Home Jury Verdict Sends Message of Need for Better Care

Nursing home negligence lawyers at Pintas & Mullins illuminate a recent jury verdict out of Polk County, Florida, awarded to the family of a woman who died at a local nursing home. The facility, Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center, is owned and operated by Trans Healthcare Management, which was listed as the defendant.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2009 after the death of 69-year-old resident Arlene Townsend. She was a resident of Auburndale from 2004 to 2007 and suffered multiple falls at the facility, the result of inadequate supervision and management that ultimately killed her.

The staggering verdict – $1.2 billion – against Trans Healthcare is just the latest in a string of large monetary damages against nursing home corporations in recent years. Among the other defendants named in those cases include Emeritus, and, again, Trans Healthcare Management.

The point of these verdicts is to deter large nursing home corporations from pursuing profits to the demise of senior citizens, and to reinforce the need for high-quality care in our nation’s nursing homes. Trans Healthcare is a business just like any other, often prioritizing profits over the well-being of its consumers, who happen to be our nation’s most vulnerable demographic. The blind pursuit of profits in companies like Emeritus and Trans Healthcare simply cannot be tolerated, as it has tragic, often fatal consequences.

Auburndale is currently being operated by Encore Healthcare, which was subject to a similar wrongful death lawsuit in 2007. Encore owns West Jacksonville Health and Rehabilitation Center, where a man died after being a resident for only two months. The man, Glenn Beeman, was admitted to West Jacksonville not because his health required constant professional monitoring but because his family was no longer capable of meeting his needs.

During his stay, Beeman became severely dehydrated and malnourished; his son even said he would go days without anything to eat or drink. He ultimately died from the lack of nourishment, among other things, as a result of West Jacksonville’s exceedingly inadequate care. When he was finally admitted to the hospital, Beeman’s blood pressure was so low he was near death, and his organs had begun to shut down.

Unfortunately, in a society so engrained with capitalist ideals as America, the only clear deterrent corporations respond to are monetary verdicts. After all, their negligence and lack of adequate medical care is caused by chronic understaffing to increase profit margins. When nurses and other employees are overworked, the quality of care begins to suffer, often to the point of exasperation. Their jobs are already high-stress, and any falter in care or monitoring can be the difference between life and death for their patients.

Plaintiffs often accuse companies like Trans Healthcare of company-wide philosophies of cutting corners to save money. To reinforce the devastating risks of such understaffing, several states, including Illinois, recently expanded the definition of ‘neglect’ under Nursing Home Care Acts. This broadened explanation makes it substantially easier for plaintiffs to argue their case and prove the nursing home was fraudulently inadequate in its care.

Illinois now considers any failure to provide adequate medical care, mental health treatment, psychiatric rehabilitation, personal care, or assistance with daily living as neglect, as well as willful withholding of assistance. Facilities must also provide assistance to help residents avoid physical harm, mental illness, or mental anguish of a resident. Plaintiffs used to have to prove inadequate care directly led to an injury; now, they only have to demonstrate that the facility failed to provide or withheld care in any way.

Elder abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those seriously injured in nursing home settings and their families. If you or a loved one was sexually, physically, emotionally, or financially abused in a nursing home, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation through a lawsuit against the facility and its parent companies.