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Nursing facility: Treatment of pressure sore was appropriate

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

Massachusetts

Venue:

Suffolk County

Court:

Suffolk County, Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

other-death; other-sepsis; other-infection; epidermis-bedsore/decubitus ulcer/pressure sore; surgeries/treatment-debridement

Case Type:

Wrongful Death; Health Law - Nursing Home; Nursing Homes - Abuse or Neglect

Case Name:

Saba Wiggins, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lillie Austin v. Radius Management Services II, Inc. and Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, No. 1284CV04196

Date:

April 18, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Saba Wiggins (Female), 

Estate of Lillie Austin (Female, 86 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Daniel C. Federico; Shaines & McEachern, P.A.; Portsmouth, NH, for Saba Wiggins, Estate of Lillie Austin

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Alan Radin; Geriatrics; Wilton, CT called by: Daniel C. Federico

Defendant(s):

Radius Management Services II Inc., 

Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Defense Attorney(s):

William Joseph Flanagan; Morrison Mahoney LLP; Boston, MA, for Radius Management Services II Inc., Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center ■ Amy B. Parker; Morrison Mahoney LLP; Boston, MA, for Radius Management Services II Inc., Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Defendant Expert(s):

Mitchell Abramson; Geriatrics; Newton, MA called by: Amy B. Parker

Insurer(s):

Hartford Insurance Group for Radius Management Services and Goddard House

Facts:

On March 22, 2009, plaintiff's decedent Lillie Austin, 86, was admitted to the Goddard House skilled nursing facility in Jamaica Plain. Austin had been recently hospitalized after suffering a hip fracture from a fall in her home and was suffering from conditions that included diabetes and end-stage renal disease, which required dialysis. During her time as a resident at the facility, Austin fell while using the toilet unsupervised and developed a pressure sore on her coccyx/tailbone. Although Austin eventually received treatment for the sore, it worsened with time and became septic. Austin died on Nov. 20, 2009. Austin's surviving daughter, Saba Wiggins, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Austin's estate against Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Radius Management Services II, Inc., a contractor providing management services to Goddard House during Austin's residency. The suit alleged medical negligence and wrongful death. Goddard House was dismissed prior to trial. The case proceeded against Radius Management only. The estate alleged that Radius Management deliberately concealed Austin's pressure sore from her daughter, who did not become aware of the injury until Austin required hospitalization for sepsis. The daughter, Wiggins, is a nurse and former assisted living facility director. Radius Management denied liability, arguing that Austin's care had been appropriate. The defense maintained that the wound had been treated in a timely manner at the facility, but the wound progressed because of Austin's worsening health and existing health problems. The defense noted that the case was complicated by the fact that the Goddard House facility had ceased operation five years prior to trial, resulting in missing treatment records.

Injury:

Austin's cause of death was determined to be advanced sepsis, which developed from a pressure sore. Austin's treatment for the pressure sore included a pressure relief mattress and cushion, with monitoring and repositioning. The wound was cleaned and dressed regularly. When the infection progressed, Austin required chemical debridement. The estate's geriatrics expert testified that Radius Management's staff failed to accurately assess and recognize the extent of the wound and noted that the hospital descriptions of the wound were not similar to the descriptions authored by facility staff. He also testified that the treatment provided to the wound was not appropriate and that surgical debridement should have been performed. Austin's estate sought damages arising from Austin's wrongful death. The defense argued that Austin's worsening pressure sore and subsequent death were medical issues unrelated to the treatment provided by Radius Management. Radius' geriatrics expert testified that the staff provided appropriate care, as evidenced by nursing notes, care plans and wound assessments. He also testified that Austin developed the pressure sore during one of her outside hospitalizations while a resident at the facility and that the progression of the pressure sore was due to Austin's deteriorating health condition.

Result:

The jury found that Radius Management had not been negligent and a defense verdict was entered.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Robert N. Tochka

Demand:

$1.3 million

Offer:

$450,000

Trial Length:

8  days

Trial Deliberations:

3  hours

Jury Composition:

7 female/ 7 male

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiff's counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.