On Thursday, September 28, 2017, a McCracken County, Kentucky, Circuit Court jury determined that a nursing home company and its employees neglected a resident and conspired to cover up a serious injury.
Cecil Gary, 61, was a resident at McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 867 McGuire Avenue in Paducah, from July 2012 until February 2014. Mr. Gary needed skilled care after suffering a major stroke that left him paralyzed on one side. He had difficulty swallowing and had already endured a left leg amputation. He relied on the staff at McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for all of his daily needs.
Instead, subsequent to a Texas conglomerate acquiring the ownership and operations of the nursing home in 2012, Mr. Gary endured multiple hospitalizations, and suffered, among other injuries: a right hip fracture; severe dehydration; and malnutrition. On one occasion the staff refused for hours to send him to the hospital despite the fact he was vomiting and in severe abdominal pain for more than 24 hours. A social services director testified at trial that the facility had an unwritten policy of keeping residents in bed even if they knew the residents should have been transported to the hospital because they didn’t want to lose Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for them.
When Mr. Gary finally got to the hospital, he was in cardiogenic shock, hypovolemic shock, acute renal failure, and they believed he was having an acute heart attack. He was found to be suffering from “profound and severe dehydration,” according to the hospital physician’s notes, and provided more than 28 liters of fluid over one week.
On another occasion, Mr. Gary fell out of bed while a certified nursing assistant was trying to clean him by herself. At least two people were supposed to help Mr. Gary at all times because he is a large man. However, testimony and medical records demonstrated that between October of 2013 and February of 2014, bed mobility was dangerously provided by only one caregiver on more than 130 occasions. Evidence was presented at trial that the nursing facility was dangerously understaffed to enhance profit margins, as labor is the largest controllable expense.
After the fall, Mr. Gary suffered painful hip and femur fractures. Given his health, he was not a candidate for surgery and had to endure the pain of these fractures daily for months until they healed. To make matters worse, a nurse at the facility testified that she inputted nursing notes about the fall and her post-fall assessments in Mr. Gary’s electronic medical record, but her notes had been deleted from those presented to the jury. Other testimony revealed that all of the residents’ electronic medical records were monitored and maintained out of Plano, Texas, by the non-facility-level corporate defendants.
Testimony at trial revealed that nursing home officials lied to the state by not acknowledging any wrongdoing at the time of the fall and stating that the neglect was “unsubstantiated,” yet their internal quality assurance committee verified neglect. One of the floor nurses testified that staff was not permitted to write “fall” in the patients’ charts because it would trigger a state investigation, and they couldn’t write “dehydration” in the chart because it was indicative of poor care.
Resident’s Rights laws require that a patient’s family member be notified anytime something happens to the resident, but the facility staff almost never told Sarah Ware, Mr. Gary’s sister and guardian, of his falls or bouts of dehydration, even when she asked.
“This is a runaway nursing home operated by a runaway nursing home corporation that – at best – kept the families of its residents in the dark about their conditions. The judge was very careful about what evidence he allowed the jury to hear, and the jury rightly determined the issues,” said Wilkes & McHugh Attorney Carl Wilander.
The facility is owned, operated and managed by a group of companies, including: Preferred Care, Inc.; Preferred Care Partners Management Group; Kentucky Partners Management, LLC. Mr. Gary’s family sued the nursing home and its parent companies for negligence and violations of Long Term Care Resident’s Rights.
A jury awarded Mr. Gary $2.5 million for the physical pain and suffering, as well as the mental anguish, that he endured; $1,050,000 for violating his Resident’s Rights; and $25 million in punitive damages for acting with reckless disregard for his life and safety and to deter the company from repeating its behavior.
The case, Sarah Ware, as Guardian of Cecil Gary, an Incapacitated Person v. Preferred Care Partners Management Group, L.P. et. al, was filed in August 2014. Wilkes & McHugh attorney Carl Wilander, along with co-counsel Gary Schaaf of Saladino & Schaaf, represented the Gary family.