Verdict against Sava in Michigan: Jury awards $2.35 million for choking on meatball in Warren nursing home

Jury awards $2.35 million for choking on meatball in Warren nursing home
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
By Jameson Cook
Macomb Daily Staff Writer
A Macomb County jury awarded $2.35 million to the estate of a man who died from choking on a meatball in a Warren nursing home.
A jury decided Tuesday afternoon that Sava Senior Care Inc., which operated Nightingale Nursing Center, was negligent and caused the death of Walter Polomski, 56, who choked on a golf ball-sized meatball and died after going 15 to 30 minutes with no or reduced air.
The victim???s brother, Richard Polomski, 62, of Sterling Heights, was near tears moments following the verdict by six of eight jurors in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.
???I???m ecstatic because my brother???s story was told and I got to find out what exactly happened to him,??? Polomski said. ???The nursing home was not telling me what EMS was telling me. That???s what prompted me to file a lawsuit.???
His attorney, John Perrin, saidthe verdict is important because it holds someone accountable for the ???despicable??? care that Walter Polomski received when he died from lack of oxygen due to the obstruction. Sava claimed another company, SSC Warren Woods Operating, the name on the license, should be held responsible.
???People need to know that the name on the building isn???t always the company that???s operating the facility,??? Perrin said. ???There are a lot of shell companies. Because the real owners don???t put their name on the building, they don???t provide good care.???
Raymond Watts Jr., the attorney for Sava, declined to comment afterward.
During closing arguments, Watts argued the incident was an unpreventable accident.
???That happens, that???s living,??? he told jurors. ???He was eating and it went down the wrong way.???
Watts suggested to the jury it could award $50,000 for slight negligence. Perrin, assisted by attorney James Simasko, asked for $3 million.
The jury awarded $1.5 million for Polomski???s pain and suffering, $750,000 for the family???s past ???loss of society and companionship??? and $100,000 for future loss of companionship. Two jurors said they agreed Sava was negligent but disagreed with the amount awarded.
Polomski said his brother???s children, Jordan, 20, and Charly Ann, 23, and a granddaughter, will also benefit from the award.
The eight-day trial over more than two weeks was presided over by Judge Edward Servitto.
Walter Polomski, a wheelchair user, died March 23, 2008, after four hours after a too-hard meatball got stuck in his trachea instead of going down his esophagus about 11:35 a.m. at lunch. Polomski never should have had access to the meatball, even if he took it from someone else???s tray, because he had swallowing and other health problems stemming from being a type I diabetic since childhood, including early stages of dementia and a stroke-like condition.
The sole nursing home staffer in the dining room didn???t know the Heimlich maneuver and instead wheeled him 40 feet or more to a nurse???s station. The plaintiff said the movement of Polomski???s wheelchair and him trying to wheel himself via his feet contributed to the meatball descending farther into his windpipe.
A nurse unsuccessfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on Polomski in the wheelchair then placed him on the ground, where the nurse did abdominal thrusts and removed some food from his throat. A male nurse then tried to force air into his lungs with an ???ambu bag,??? but Perrin said that may have exacerbated the problem.
The plaintiffs accused the nursing home of delaying a 911 call for about 12 minutes, and of understaffing the dining room, where there should have been at least five staffers.
EMS arrived quickly, the plaintiffs said, and found minimal life indicators. A paramedic removed the meatball with forceps. Polomski died at a hospital.
Polomski said he visited his brother five days a week, and was going to visit him later on the day he died, Easter Sunday.
In the months prior to that day, ???he actually had been getting a little better,??? his brother said.
Still, Polomski???s life expectancy was about four to 10 years, experts said at the trial.
Although the plaintiff admitted that Polomski wasn???t perfect and at times had strained relationships with his children, ???This is a man who loved his children,??? Perrin said.


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