Rita Marie Webster by and through her son on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries v. National Heritage Realty Inc. d/b/a Yazoo City Health and Rehab
Carl Hagwood and Michael Phillips won a defense verdict on March 6, 2009 in a wrongful death case tried in U.S. District Court for the Southern Division in Natchez.
The plaintiff alleged that the decedent died as a result of negligence on the part of the nursing home in Yazoo City which caused malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, bed sores, infections, contractures and death. The Plaintiff focused heavily on documentation errors and physician orders that were not timely implemented.
The defense proved their case by showing that the staff and physicians fully informed the family on numerous occasions of the disease process caused by Alzheimerâ€™s dementia and that the problems the decedent experienced at Yazoo City Nursing and Rehab (i.e., skin breakdowns, weight loss, contractures, etc.) were the predictable outcome.
Plaintiff claimed that when Ms. Webster arrived at the nursing home in April of 2005, she was able to walk and both toilet and feed herself. Plaintiff claimed that shortly after her admission the staff at Yazoo City Health and Rehabilitation Center placed Ms. Webster in a wheelchair and that she soon lost the ability to walk. Plaintiff, through her experts, offered testimony that during her one year admission at the nursing home, Ms. Webster experienced bouts of malnutrition and dehydration with resulting weight loss. As a result of Ms. Websterâ€™s decreased nutritional intake and due to the staffâ€™s failure to implement appropriate turning and repositioning interventions, the plaintiff claimed Ms. Webster developed Stage IV decubitus ulcers to both hips and her coccyx. Further, and due to Ms. Websterâ€™s malnourished state (she weighed 90 lbs. upon admission to the nursing home), plaintiffâ€™s experts testified that Ms. Webster developed osteomyelitis or infection of the bone which ultimately led to sepsis causing her death. Plaintiffâ€™s experts also criticized the staff at the nursing home for allowing Ms. Webster to become contracted which further placed her at risk for serious Stage IV pressure ulcers.
The defendants rebutted plaintiffâ€™s claims by relying on all available medical records as well as literature from the Alzheimerâ€™s Association which indicates that an individual in Stage VII or end stage Alzheimerâ€™s can predictably expect to lose weight, become malnourished and/or dehydrated, experience skin breakdowns and contractures and that the number one cause of death is either related to aspiration pneumonia or infected pressure sores. Defendants then relied on documentation from Ms. Websterâ€™s treating physician where on numerous occasions he attempted to educate the family as to Ms. Websterâ€™s disease processes and how it was causing her to experience the problems they were so critical of. Defendantsâ€™ physician expert, Dr. Robert Kelly, educated the jury regarding the predictable progression of Alzheimerâ€™s disease and explained how through neurological deterioration Alzheimerâ€™s disease led to the problems complained of by plaintiff.
After a five-day trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the defendant.