Nursing Home Negligence Causes Pressure Ulcers; Substantial Pain and Suffering Damages Verdict Affirmed on AppealTragedy struck Gualbert Alvarez twice in his young life.On July 15, 2001, he dove into shallow water and struck hishead, causing spinal cord damages, which left him permanentlyparalyzed from the neck down. He was 24 years old.Gualbert was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where he was in a coma forthree months after his diving accident and underwent numeroussurgeries. After being medically stabilized, he was transferred to theRusk Institute for rehabilitation, then to Pelham Bay Nursing Homeand, in December 2001, he was transferred to Beth Abraham NursingHome where he remained for 26 months until July 6, 2004.In March 2004, tragedy struck a second time when Alvarez, whocould not turn independently and needed assistance to get out ofbed, developed bed sores (also called pressure sores, pressureulcers and decubitus ulcers). They started as Stage II in his feet andheels but then, over 11 days, he developed a Stage IV ulcer in his leftbuttock.
In Alvarez v. Beth Abraham Health Services (1st Dept. 2012), the appellate court recently affirmed both the liability determination and the damages awards.In January 2005, Alvarez sued the nursing homeclaiming that his bedsores were a result of the staff’snegligent skin care – in failing to regularly position hisbody.On March 9, 2011, a Bronx jury agreed and found thatthe defendant was negligent and that plaintiff wasentitled to pain and suffering damages in the sum of$750,000 ($500,000 past – seven years, $250,000 future– 42 years).
Here are the details of plaintiff’s injuries:development of Stage IV ulcer on left buttock, about two inches indiameter and two inches deep, with necrosis and foul odors16 weeks of follow-up treatment including applications of wet todry dressings – placing saline gauze into the would and thenripping it out after it sticks, so as to remove necrotic tissuesharp surgical debridement involving excruciating pain (the woundcannot be anesthetized)continuing pain at the ulcer site from area where the spine meetsthe legssore remained open for 2-3 months before healing with large scarover an embarrassing hole in left buttock preventing plaintiff fromsitting for a long timelikelihood that the ulcer will reopen in the future and residualincreased susceptibility to development of further bed sores forthe rest of plaintiff’s life
The appellate court decision does not refer to any prior cases dealingwith the proper amount of damages in a case like this (there are infact very few); however, there are two relevant prior cases thatapparently influenced the judges:Parson v. Interfaith Medical Center (2d Dept. 1999) – $400,000 painand suffering award (all past – six months, no future – death fromunrelated causes) reduced from $1,000,000 for 92 year old nursinghome resident with six pressure ulcers, including three very largeStage IV ulcersKolbert v. Maplewood Healthcare Center, Inc. (4th Dept. 2005) –$500,000 pain and suffering award (all past – one year, no future –death from unrelated causes) reduced from $1,500,000 for 78 yearold nursing home resident with Stage IV pressure ulcers in her heelsas well as a fractured elbow
Inside Information:After the jury charge, it took only an hour and a half to render theverdict.It appears that the jurors were disturbed by the fact that defendant’srecords indicated that proper and necessary turning and positioning(i.e., once every two hours) only took place 65% of the time.Part of the defense was that plaintiff was a noncompliant patient whostayed in his wheelchair too long, refused to wear prescribed bootiesfor his feet and left the premises too often for outside social visits.At the time of trial, plaintiff lived with his wife, who he married in2007. http://www.newyorkinjurycasesblog.com/20 13/01/articles/medical-malpractice-1/bed- sores/
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