03/15/12 — Family sues over death at Britthaven

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Family sues over death at Britthaven

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 15, 2012 1:46 PM

Opening arguments were heard Wednesday in Wayne County Superior Court in a case involving the death of a woman at a Goldsboro nursing home.

Eddie Baker, the son of Britthaven patient Mary Lee Baker, who died in 2008, is seeking more than $10,000 in damages for what he calls the pain, suffering and wrongful death of his mother while she was a resident at the facility.

In the complaint filed in March 2010, Baker claimed her death was "a result of multiple inexcusable falls, errors, and injuries during her residency" at the nursing home on Wayne Memorial Drive.

Ms. Baker was 88 when, after suffering a stroke, she was a admitted to Britthaven.

The complaint says his mother was allowed to fall at least two times and that "one or the other of these falls, or both, ultimately caused Mary Baker to suffer a subdural hematoma."

During opening arguments Wednesday, the plaintiff's lawyer, Thomas Waitt Pleasant, told the jury of five women and seven men that Britthaven employees failed to follow proper nursing home safety principles.

On the first day Ms. Baker was admitted, Pleasant said, it was noted that special precautions needed to be taken after she attempted to move about on her own.

The precautions included the use of a device that went over her lap while she was in a wheelchair to prevent her from rocking and to remind her not to get out of the chair. She was also equipped with a pressure-sensitive alarm on her wheelchair and bed to notify the nursing staff when she was attempting to stand.

Despite the precautions, Pleasant told the jury that the overburdened nursing staff could not property meet Ms. Baker's needs, which resulted in her falling on June 3 and June 6 and hitting her head on the floor on both occasions.

He said a CT scan performed on June 9 showed Ms. Baker suffered from a subdural hematoma.

"By (June 19), neurosurgeons had to drill holes in her head to release the deadly pressure. She doesn't do well after that. She is weak. She declines in health, and on the fourth of July, 2008, Mary Baker passes away. The medical examiner, in his official declaration on this death certificate signs Mary Baker died of complications of falls," Pleasant said.

He said some falls that take place in nursing homes cannot be prevented, but the falls suffered by Ms. Baker in Britthaven could have been avoided had proper safety standards been followed.

The lawyer for the defense, Mike Hurley, told jurors Ms. Baker died of causes unrelated to the care provided by Britthaven or the injuries she received during the falls.

"About nine months before she came to Britthaven of Goldsboro (Ms. Baker) was dying of advanced Alzheimer's disease and she had a bad heart," Hurley said.

He told jurors that months before arriving at Britthaven, Ms. Baker required regular visits to her home from a health care service, and while she was never left alone, she frequently fell.

Hurley said before Ms. Baker was admitted into Britthaven, doctors told her family she had less than six months to live. He said the family instructed doctors to only provide comfort care and not to treat her heart condition.

Judge W. Allen Cobb is presiding.