February 27, 2018, PNLR News | The American Association For Justice

February 27, 2018, PNLR News

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Failure to adequately evaluate nursing home resident and timely transfer him to hospital

photo of nurse's hand on top of elderly's hands holding a cane

The resident’s son and estate sued the home, alleging it failed to adequately staff the facility with registered nurses during overnight hours and properly assess the resident in light of symptoms indicating a bowel obstruction. The jury awarded more than $7.62 million. Copeland v. Lowndes Cnty. Health Servs., LLC.
 

Bobby Copeland, 71, lived at the Heritage Healthcare of Holly Hill nursing home. One night, he developed abdominal distension and vomited. The LPN on duty called a physician’s assistant (PA), who allegedly told her that Copeland should not be transferred to a hospital emergency room. The PA ordered tests, which were performed on a routine basis, and told the nurse to call him back if Copeland’s condition worsened. Although Copeland’s condition deteriorated, including developing abdominal pain and a lack of bowel sounds, the nurse did not contact the PA.

Copeland’s vomiting continued, and he was transferred to a hospital later the next morning, where he died of acute respiratory distress syndrome resulting from aspiration of waste matter. He is survived by his adult son.

Copeland’s son and estate sued the nursing home, alleging it failed to adequately staff the home with registered nurses during overnight hours and properly assess Copeland in light of his symptoms, which indicated a bowel obstruction. Suit also alleged that the PA and his supervising physician were liable for failing to order STAT testing and timely transfer Copeland to the hospital in light of his symptoms.

The PA and supervising physician settled before trial for an undisclosed amount.

The jury awarded more than $7.62 million, finding the PA and supervising physician each 35 percent liable, the nursing home 20 percent liable, and a nonparty emergency room physician and hospital each 5 percent liable.

Citation: Copeland v. Lowndes Cnty. Health Servs., LLC, No. 2014CV287 (Ga. St. Ct. Lowndes Cnty. Jan. 25, 2018).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Kenneth L. Connor and C. Caleb Connor, both of Aiken, S.C.

Plaintiff experts: Kathleen Hill-O’Neill, gerontological nursing, Upper Makefield, Pa.; and Joseph Micca, internal medicine, Marietta, Ga.