Jury slams corporation with $1 billion in punitive damages

Location: Polk County, Florida
Plaintiff: The Estate of Arlene Anne Townsend, by and through Brenda S. Shattuck, personal representative
Defendant: Trans Healthcare, Inc.
Amount: $1.10 billion verdict
Compensatory damages: $110 million
Punitive damages: $1 billion
Alleged Injuries: Negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and wrongful death in a case of a woman who suffered falls, fractures and more at a nursing home


Arlene Anne Townsend was a single mother who became a nurse and devoted the bulk of her life to caring for others. The latter part of her career was spent tending to the needs of nursing home residents. Shortly after she retired, she suffered a stroke. She needed 24-hour care, and though it broke her son’s heart to do it, he had to move his mother to a nursing home.

During the time she lived there, Townsend suffered at least 18 falls. The final fall resulted in a hip fracture that went undiagnosed and untreated for a week. She also endured severe infections, including Clostridium difficile and cellulitis, as well as chronic stomach pains with fecal impaction, skin tears, malnutrition, and dehydration before she died.

The nursing home did not have enough employees or supplies to properly care for all of the residents there, especially Arlene Townsend. Wilkes Law Firm attorneys represented her son, and for the trial, the jury had to determine damages only, not liability. It was a case of corporate corruption and misconduct where, though Trans Healthcare, Inc. was the named defendant at trial, the judge subsequently determined that 16 other companies and individuals were jointly and severally responsible for the $1 billion in punitive damages and $110 million in compensatory damages owed to the family of Arlene Townsend. This was the third multi-million verdict Wilkes & McHugh won against the owner of the facility for this egregious behavior.  

Note: This case continues to be litigated in the bankruptcy court for the Middle District of Florida. 

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