Despite nursing home abuse lawsuits’ setback last week with the discovery that the previous Administration had secretly signed an executive order that prevents Medicare and many nursing home inspectors from testifying against nursing homes in negligent or abuse lawsuits (read more in the original article, “New Rule… Impedes Cases Against Nursing Homes”)–despite this serious setback to preventing nursing home abuse, there was good news for at least one Tennessee family whose loved one was seriously injured by a Murfreesboro nursing home’s neglect. A Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled against a Warren County Circuit Court judgment last week that reduced damages a Tennessee branch of major nursing home chain had to pay for its neglect of its Tennessee resident. The Circuit judge wanted to reduce the original $4.1 million punitive damages previously awarded to $163,000.
Understanding this Tennessee nursing home neglect lawsuit requires us to return to 2005 when Tennessee resident Cheatum Myers, age 90, died less than month after his one-year stay at NHC McMinnville, a Tennessee nursing home owned by National HeathCare Corporation (Murfreesboro-based) which is in turn owned by National Health Corporation. Myers v. NHC McMinnville et al was filed by Mr. Myers’s family claiming that numerous nursing home falls, one resulting in a fractured hip, pressure sores (bed sores) at the Stage IV level, urinary tract infections (urosepsisepses), untreated pain, and other signs of neglect were proof of mistreatment (grossly negligent conduct) by the Tennessee nursing home. The plaintiff’s attorney claimed that the nursing home company had put profits over resident care, which led to understaffing resulting in part to the nursing home neglect, and that this negligence was responsible for Myers’ untimely demise (wrongful death) and constituted malpractice.
Tennessee court found against the wrongful death charge but found the McMinnville, TN nursing home guilty of negligence ($820,459) and malpractice ($3,281,839). To preserve the record should these putative damages be appealed by the nursing home company, the jury went into a mini-trial that assessed $163,402 to PHC McMinnville, $1,000,000 to National HealthCare Corporation, and $28,635,000 to NHC-2. This $30 M in punitive was reduced by the Tennessee judge to the $4.1 million against the local nursing home.
Last February, Judge Bart Stanley ruled that no jury could reasonably award such an amount for nursing home abuse and reduced the award to $163,000.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals last week supported the jury’s original decision in Myers v. NHC McMinnville et al. If NHC carries through in its stated plans to appeal the appellate court’s findings against its nursing home, it will need to make a formal request with the Tennessee Supreme Court in the next 60 days.
NHC is a Murfreesboro, TN-based company with more than 9,100 skilled nursing beds and is in the Top 20 largest nursing home chains in the U.S. NHC is also the chain held liable for the 2003 Nashville nursing home fire at its Nashville, TN facility.
Despite the former Administration’s rule to limit nursing home information available to patients, loved ones, and attorneys, the $144 billion nursing-home industry has not yet won. There are still brave nursing home staff personnel who will testify against negligent nursing homes that are understaffing, such as the 10+ PHC McMinnville nursing home employees who testified on Cheatum Myers’ behalf.
If your loved one in a Tennessee nursing home has suffered neglect or abuse, or if you would like guidance on a potential Georgia or Kentucky nursing home abuse case, contact the Higgins Law Firm to speak with me or another of our of veteran nursing home abuse/neglect attorneys.