A jury recently found an Edgewood nursing home negligent in its care of a former resident who died in early 2016.
Jurors returned a $700,000 verdict in favor of the family of Verna Kelley, 90, following a nine-day civil trial.
Kelley’s children filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Edgewood Convalescent Home last year, alleging that nursing home staff failed “to keep Verna Kelley from falling” and fracturing her femur, and that her injuries led to her death on Jan. 29, 2016.
The lawsuit also claimed dependent-adult abuse and listed several claims of negligence, including failing to provide appropriate care, staffing and monitoring of Kelley to avoid injury and “failure to assure urgent access to hospital and medical care as needed.”
Attorneys representing Edgewood Convalescent Home denied the claims in court documents and argued Kelley’s death was the result of “comparative fault,” meaning that family members shared some of the blame and failed to mitigate Kelley’s injuries. The attorneys argued that a claim for punitive damages violates the skilled and nursing care facility’s “federal and constitutional rights.”
Jurors listened to two weeks’ worth of testimony from medical experts, family members and current and former nursing home staff. They found “a preponderance of clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence that the conduct of Edgewood Convalescent Home constituted willful and wanton disregard for the rights or safety of Verna Kelley,” according to court documents.
The jury awarded Kelley’s family $700,000 in damages for pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
“My clients felt vindicated and felt like someone had finally listened to them,” said Cedar Rapids attorney Pressley Henningsen, who represented the family.
Henningsen argued that the nursing home was insufficiently staffed overnight to allow for a two-person team to lift patients, if needed, to exercise reasonable care and appropriate medical attention and to prevent “horrific tragedies like this that were completely preventable.”
He said a nursing home aide was attending to Kelley and rolled her toward the “unguarded edge of the bed” where a guardrail had been lowered, causing Kelley to fall.
Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals records document a Jan. 29, 2016, investigation of a resident who rolled out of bed while being attended to by staff. The resident suffered a fractured right femur.
The investigation revealed the resident “was at risk of falls” and “required extensive assistance of two people.” Documents state a staff member “did not wait for another staff person” to assist her while providing care.
The convalescent home was fined $5,000 in February 2016, but that was later reduced to $3,250.
The facility said in a statement, “Edgewood Convalescent Home is saddened by the loss the family has experienced,” it states. “As a community-owned care facility, we take pride in the care we provide to our residents, many of whom are family and friends. Edgewood follows industry standards and guidelines for staffing. We continually strive to meet and exceed best practices for care as evidenced by our recent four-out-of-five-star rating from Medicare.”