A nursing home wrongful death suit has resulted in a $4.85 million verdict on behalf of the family of a Michigan man who died from a morphine overdose.
The lawsuit was filed by the family of Burr Needham, 76, who died while a resident of Mercy Memorial Nursing Home, in Monroe, Michigan. Needham had been recovering from a broken hip at the facility at the time of his death in 2002.
Investigators from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office determined that Needham’s death in 2002 was a homicide caused by morphine, which was present in his system at higher than therapeutic levels. Prosecutors, however, said there was not enough evidence to charge any of the Mercy Memorial Nursing Home staff with a crime.
The jury determined that the Michigan nursing home was negligent and civilly liable for Needham’s death, awarding his wife $3 million for loss of companionship, $1.5 million for pain and suffering, and $350,000 for other costs. The nursing home is expected to appeal the verdict.
Overdoses from painkillers have skyrocketed in recent years.
In April, a drug overdose study by researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine found that the number of people hospitalized due to overdoses from drugs like OxyContin, fentanyl and morphine are now 65% higher than they were from 1999 through 2006. That number is twice the increase seen in hospitalizations for other drugs.
Nursing home patients are considered particularly vulnerable due to problems with drug overdoses, as some facilities fall back on drugs as a form of chemical restraint to control patients whom they consider hard to manage.