Nursing Home Lawsuit Over Repeated Falls Results in $1.2B Jury Award

A Florida jury awarded $1.2 billion in damages this week in a nursing home negligence lawsuit, including a rare award of punitive damages designed to punish the facility for mistreatment of residents.

The verdict was handed down on Monday by a Polk County jury, finding that Trans Healthcare Inc. and Trans Healthcare Management should be required to pay $220 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages to the family of Arlene Townsend, who died while a resident at one of the company’s nursing homes.

Townsend was 69 years old when she died at Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center, where she had been a resident since 2004. According to allegations raised in a complaint brought by her son, Townsend suffered repeated injuries from falls while at the nursing home and was not properly supervised.

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The defendants were hit with a default judgment in 2011, after they stopped participating in the lawsuit. The jury was only asked to determine the amount of damages that should be awarded to the family. Attorneys for the companies attended the trial and presented evidence in an attempt to convince the jury to go for a low monetary award.

The $1.2 billion verdict, while sending a powerful message, may be difficult to collect. The two companies already face a $114 million nursing home abuse verdict from 2010, and that money has reportedly still not been collected. The two companies also received a default judgment in that case, also due to a lack of participation in the legal process.

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