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Million-Dollar Verdict in Wrongful Death at Nursing Home

The family of a woman who suffered a deadly fall while recovering from back surgery has been awarded over a million dollars in damages.

The woman was admitted to the Heather Knoll Retirement Village in Ohio on a temporary basis after having back surgery in August of 2006. She was 69. At the time of the fall that led to the eventual wrongful death lawsuit, the woman was anemic and had a urinary infection. These conditions confused her mind and made it difficult for her to follow instructions. Although the staff was aware that the woman was at risk of falling, they did not install an alarm that would have notified them if she tried to get out of bed.

The woman got out of bed to use the restroom, but no one will ever know if she made it there. She fell and struck her head, and also fractured one wrist and her hip. When she was discovered, she had been left unattended for over two hours. She died within a week of the fall.

The jury found that the nursing home was negligent and in violation of the state Patients' Bill of Rights. The total damage award to the woman's husband and two sons was $1,001,540.

The Heather Knoll nursing home said it disagreed with the court's decision and would appeal.

In addition to the finding of liability, the jury found that an arbitration agreement between the woman and Heather Knoll was unenforceable. The woman was required to sign the arbitration agreement when she was admitted to the nursing home. Under the agreement, she could not sue the facility if something went wrong during her stay.

The jury found that this agreement could not be used to prevent a lawsuit. Baton Rouge wrongful death attorneys urge potential clients on a regular basis not to be deterred by the existence of waivers or arbitration agreements. In many cases, these agreements can be overcome as they were in this case. 

Source: Akron Beacon Journal "Family awarded $1 million in nursing-home death" 1/21/2011

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