Fort Wayne Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer and Attorney Blog

1.25 Million Verdict Against Kindred Healthcare in Georgia

January 5, 2009

Nursing home loses neglect suit

By Ty Tagami, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Melvin Raybon died in pain four years ago, and a DeKalb County jury agreed that the cause of his suffering was neglect at the Tucker nursing home where he lived for nine months.

A state court jury awarded Raybon’s daughter $1.25 million, concluding a four-year lawsuit over the care her father received at the Tucker Nursing Center.

The center, on Idlewood Road in downtown Tucker, was accused of providing inadequate attention to Raybon. He was admitted in 2002 when he turned 67. Nine months later, he had to go to a hospital for treatment of a bedsore that infected his left buttock to the bone, said Columbus attorney Benjamin Land, who led the suit on behalf of Raybon’s estate.

Land said nursing assistants from the nursing home testified there weren’t enough staffers to provide adequate care. Raybon should have been turned over every two hours to alleviate the pressure that leads to bedsores, but Land said he was turned every four hours.

Raybon, a former forklift operator, was admitted to another nursing home in Buckhead after the hospital stabilized him, but his condition deteriorated. He had suffered from malnutrition as a result of the original infection, which sent his body into a death spiral that led to more bedsores and infections at the Buckhead home, Land said. He died in June 2004.

“The last 12 months of his life were miserable,” Land said. “Our argument to the jury was basically that no man should spend his last year on Earth like this.”

An attorney for the Tucker nursing home owner said the decision was “an enormous award just for pain and suffering from bedsores.”

The attorney, Walter Bush Jr. of Atlanta, said the court didn’t allow the jury to hear evidence that state regulators found no violations in connection with the case, and he said that is a “reversible error,” meaning fertile ground for appeal.

“I haven’t gotten the official word from the client, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t” appeal, he said.

Bush said his client is Kindred Healthcare, the company that owned the nursing home at the time. He said the home was sold to a new owner last year.

The jury issued its verdict Friday. The defendants have 30 days to file an appeal from the time Judge J. Antonio DelCampo signs an order, which is expected this week.

Bush said the jury didn’t accuse the nursing home of causing Raybon’s death. He was ill when he arrived at the Tucker home. Part of his brain had been removed because of cancer, and one of his legs had been amputated, both sides agree.

Bush said Raybon’s prior condition caused his death. He said nurses at the Tucker home testified that they took good care of Raybon and he said that it was four “low level” certified nursing assistants who testified about inadequate care.

“One of them testified that in this case she didn’t do her job,” Bush said. “The others testified that generally they didn’t do their jobs.”

He said his client didn’t agree that the assistants provided inadequate care, though he said “one of them was fired for not doing her job.” He said it was the later care at the Buckhead nursing home that caused Raybon’s condition to deteriorate.

Officials from the Tucker nursing center did not return calls for comment. Raybon’s daughter, Yolanda Latimore, declined through her attorney to comment.

The attorney, Land, said Latimore repeatedly asked officials at the Tucker nursing home to take better care of her father. Land said Latimore was also busy at the time taking care of her mother, Raybon’s wife Shirley, who had breast cancer. She died, too.