CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County jury on Friday awarded an elderly woman's family $91.5 million in damages from a Charleston nursing home, after finding that nursing home workers indirectly caused the woman's death.
After a trial that lasted nearly two weeks in front of Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr., jurors found that workers at Heartland of Charleston, located at 3819 Chesterfield Ave., failed to feed and care for Dorothy Douglas, who stayed at the home for about three weeks in 2009 before dying at age 87. Lawyers for Douglas' son say she died of complications from dehydration.
After closing arguments Friday morning, jurors deliberated for about two hours before returning their verdict and awarding $80 million in punitive damages and $11.5 million in compensatory damages.
In September 2009, Tom Douglas took his mother to Heartland of Charleston while waiting for space to open in another nursing home. Dorothy Douglas suffered from Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's disease and several other conditions, Douglas' lawyers, Lance Reins and Amy Quezan, told the jury during the trial.
They said that while living with her son, Dorothy Douglas' health had improved to the point where she could walk, speak and recognize family members.
After checking his mother into Heartland, Tom Douglas said, he discovered that the staffers had labeled her a fall risk and confined her to a wheelchair.
By the time she was transferred to the Heritage Center nursing home in Huntington three weeks later, she was unresponsive, she had lost 15 pounds and severe dehydration had driven her to the brink of death, Douglas' lawyers said.
She died at Hospice of Huntington on Oct. 11.
Reins told jurors during closing arguments Friday that Heartland did not have enough nurses on staff to care for the woman. Several former Heartland workers testified during the trial that properly caring for all of the residents was impossible.
In 2009, the nursing home reported an employee turnover rate of 112 percent, according to Reins.
"They were losing more people because they weren't even staying through orientation when they saw the conditions," he told the jury.