03/22/12 — Jury finds facility was negligent

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Jury finds facility was negligent

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 22, 2012 1:46 PM

Britthaven nursing home was found negligent and ordered to pay $85,000 by a jury in a Wayne County Superior Civil Court Wednesday to the estate of a woman who fell and was injured while she was in the facility's care.

The family of Mary Lee Baker filed a complaint of wrongful death against the nursing home for the suffering and death of their 88-year-old mother in 2008.

Ms. Baker suffered two falls at the nursing home during what was supposed to be a temporary stay to help her recover from a stroke.

Because of the injuries, she had to undergo surgery for a subdural hematoma.

The first fall occurred after Ms. Baker got up from her wheelchair, and the second happened after she apparently left her bed.

On both occasions, Ms. Baker was not supervised.

Ms. Baker was admitted into Britthaven on May 26, 2008, and died less than six weeks later, on July 4.

During the trial, the five women and seven men on the jury heard testimony regarding what is a reasonable expectation of care at a nursing home.

The defense claimed that Ms. Baker's death was the result of a previously diagnosed heart condition and not the head injuries suffered in the falls.

The plaintiff's lawyers argued that the falls were caused by Britthaven's negligence and the injuries she suffered from the falls led to her death.

In closing arguments, Britthaven's defense lawyer Mike Hurley said falls by elderly people in nursing homes are almost impossible to completely prevent.

"When a fall occurs, it would be a miscarriage of justice for any of you to assume that necessarily means that somebody wasn't doing their job, and that in a nutshell is the plaintiff's entire case," Hurley told the jurors.

He said Britthaven gave Ms. Baker a high standard of care, despite the falls that occurred, and that the staff beefed up precautions after Ms. Baker's falls, including the use of pressure sensitive alarms on her bed and wheelchair, the installation of a device to discourage her from getting out of her wheelchair, installing mats in areas where she might fall and giving her a bed that sat lower to floor.

The plaintiff's attorneys concentrated their argument on whether the measures were properly implemented.

After nearly fours hours of jury deliberation, the verdict was announced in favor of the plaintiff.