A California jury has awarded $5 million to the daughters of an elderly woman who died as a result of injuries suffered in a fall after wandering from a nursing home, including rare punitive damages designed to punish the facility after it attempted to cover up the nursing home injury.
The verdict stems from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Marjorie Fitzpatrick, who was 90 when she left the dementia unit of Timer Ridge Assisted Living of McKinleyville in October 2013.
According to allegations raised at trial, Fitzpatrick was in a manic state and fled the facility, and was gone for about 45 minutes before the staff realized she was missing. During that time she fell and broke facial bones and her wrist, suffering a brain bleed and later died from the nursing home fall injuries.
The family claimed that the nursing home covered up the accident by making it sound like Fitzpatrick had only been outside for a short time. The lawsuit even claimed that the facility destroyed a video of the fall and covered up eyewitness reports about what had happened. The family indicated that it only got the full story when a maintenance person told the family the truth.
The lawsuit accused the nursing home of the cover-up, of failing to provide the proper care for Fitzpatrick, who suffered from severe dementia, and for failing to provide her with the anti-anxiety medications that may have prevented her nursing home elopement. The lawsuit also indicated that the facility suffered from nursing home staffing problems; failing to have a registered nurse available to provide the regular attention a dementia sufferer like Fitzpatrick requires.
On January 18, a Humboldt County jury awarded the family $2.1 million for Fitzpatrick’s wrongful death, $400,000 for damages from nursing home abuse, and an additional $2.5 million in punitive damages designed to punish the nursing home for endangering Fitzpatrick’s life.
Officials at the nursing home have said that they are attempting to correct mistakes made at the time to improve the facility.