In May of this year, a Colorado man and his sister recovered $3.3 million in a lawsuit against a nursing home for the negligent care the home provided to the man. According to a report by a local news affiliate, the man, who suffers from dementia and mild mental retardation, was admitted to the home in 2011.
After her brother spent some time in the facility, the woman began to notice that he “wasn’t treated with dignity and respect.” Moreover, according to the co-plaintiff, her brother suffered various preventable conditions, including “bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, UTIs, skin tears and abrasions, hyperkalemia (high potassium), multiple infections including E. coli, and significant weight loss.”
After taking the case to trial, a jury awarded the woman and her brother $3.3 million. Of that total, $300,000 was based on the nursing home’s negligence, and the remaining $3 million were punitive damages assessed due to the reprehensible behavior of the nursing home.
Punitive Damages in Maryland Nursing Home Cases
In Maryland, punitive damages are awarded to deter the type of behavior that was exhibited by the defendant. In other words, punitive damages are a “punishment” for especially reprehensible behavior, and they are above and beyond the compensatory damages awarded to a plaintiff.
In Maryland, punitive damages are not necessarily easy to get, although punitive damages are awarded in certain cases. The determining factor in whether a defendant’s behavior will result in punitive damages is whether that behavior consisted of “conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, evil or wrongful motive, intent to injure, ill will, or fraud.” The plaintiff must show this by clear and convincing evidence to prevail at trial on a punitive damages claim.
One a plaintiff meets that burden, there is no cap on what the punitive damage award can be. This differs from other states, such as Virginia, that implements a $350,000 punitive damages cap.
Seeking punitive damages does not risk a decrease or non-recovery of compensatory damages because they are viewed as an entirely separate damages category. Therefore, if a plaintiff seeks punitive damages but does not get them, the compensatory damages award will still stand.
Maryland Nursing Home Negligence Claims and Punitive Damages
In Maryland, it is possible to obtain punitive damages based on a nursing home’s conduct. For example, under the current law, if a plaintiff was able to show that a nursing home employee intentionally withheld care from a certain employee, that may qualify for a punitive damages claim.
Have You or a Loved One Been the Vitim of Nursing Home Abuse or Negligence?
If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of nursing home abuse or nursing home negligence in the Maryland area, you should speak to a dedicated Maryland nursing home attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you may be entitled to a monetary award. Nursing homes have a duty to provide adequate care to all patients, and when they fail to do so, they can be held accountable. The Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC has years of experience holding nursing homes responsible for their negligent and abusive conduct. Click here, or call 410-654-3600 to schedule an initial consultation today.
See More Blog Posts:
New Legislation in Florida Changes the Landscape of Nursing Home Injury Cases, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published May 6, 2014.
Seventeen Employees of Michigan Nursing Home Facing Charges for Patient Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published May 13, 2014.