Last week in Pinellas County, a jury awarded $200 million to the family of a woman who fell at a nursing home. The fall resulted in the woman’s death. The woman, Elvira Nunziata, was a resident at Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center. She began living at the facility in August 2003. During her time there, she suffered other falls, injuries, and illnesses including dementia. She was also known to wander off. In 2004, she did just that. She wandered away from a group of residents. No one noticed she was missing for nearly an hour. A Staff member found her at the bottom of a set of stairs still strapped to her wheelchair.
The Emergency exit door that she went out of, was supposed to be locked, but the alarm was often disabled so the staff members could go smoke. Not only should the door alarm have gone off, but the alarms on her clothes and her wheelchair should have made the Staff aware of where she was. The Nursing Home was known to be understaffed at times and had a history of citations and complaints.
In 2004 Trans Health Management Inc. had sole authority to operate the home, but has since gone out of business. Therefore, Elvira Nunziata’s estate, represented by her son, sued Trans Health Management Inc.. Defense Attorney’s failed to appear in court last week to defend the Trans Health Management Inc.. The jury deliberated for less than an hour and in that time decided that the estate be awarded $60 million in compensatory damages and $140 million in punitive damages.