Michigan Nursing Home Suit Results in $4.85M Verdict Over Fatal Overdose

  • Written by: Staff Writers

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.

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  1. Linda Reply

    On February 1,2011, my son overdosed on the fentanyl patch. It doesn’t take away the pain of not having my son, my granddaughters, ages 8 and 5, not having their father around. He thought the world of his daughters and vice versa. My other son doesn’t have his brother anymore.. His death was a shock, and now I would like to file a wrongful death suit. Would like advice on how to go about it.

  2. Dina Reply

    So unfortunate. Even nursing / rehab facilities that boast about having “high ratings” have their issues. Interesting enough, amidst their elaborate architecture, the inadequacies do not get unveiled to impinge status…concealed and not reported maybe- ?? As long as the beds are staffed may be the only primary concern when education to the staff should be first and foremost. Medication administration requires team effort and if other nurses are not initialing the medication logs correctly and reading what medication is on hand compared to what is ordered – a causal relationship to medication administration errors. Competent nurses (even a nurse-in-training) steer away from such environments, not because they don’t like caring for the elderly population and hospital discharge rehab patients, but because they cannot and will not tolerate the incompetency around them. Ultimately, there needs to be improved regulatory enforcement to direct the inadequacies of such health care environments.

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