FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 15, 2005
George F. Quintairos, Esq.
305-670-1101 Ext. 119
NURSING HOME DEFENSE VERDICT IN TEXAS
HOUSTON, TX – George F. Quintairos and Peter J. Molinelli of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. (QPWB), achieved a Defense Verdict for their nursing home client. After five weeks of trial and two days of deliberations, on December 7th a Texas jury returned a Defense Verdict on behalf of Mariner Healthcare, Inc., and Living Centers of Texas, Inc., in the case of Judith Faithauer v. Allenbrook Healthcare Center (Allenbrook).
Quintairos and Molinelli tried the case in the 270th District Court of Texas before Judge Brent Gamble. Henri Dussault and Claudine Jackson of Brackett & Ellis in Ft. Worth, Texas, served as local counsel and assisted in the defense of the case at trial.
This case marks the second time the matter has gone to trial in the past year. The first trial, in February of 2005, abruptly ended when former defense counsel suffered a heart attack1 on the eighth day of trial causing the case to be declared a mistrial, and the matter to be re-scheduled for the trial period commencing October 31, 2005, giving Quintairos and Molinelli little time to review and prepare a case that involved over seven thousand pages of records and deposition testimony.
The Plaintiff, Judith Faithauer, was represented by long-standing prominent trial lawyers David Marks, Jacques Balette and Henry Giessel of the Houston-based firm of Marks, Balette & Giessel, which specializes in nursing home litigation, and is nationally known for achieving several of the highest nursing home verdicts in Texas. In fact, the first jury polled after the mistrial was declared, indicated a willingness to award eighteen to twenty million dollars in compensatory damages at that early stage.
Mrs. Faithauer was a 54-year-old, bedfast, and morbidly obese female at the time she was admitted to Allenbrook on November 10, 2000. She was on continuous oxygen, incontinent of bowel, and in need of total assistance with her activities of daily living. She was a resident at Allenbrook from November 10, 2000 through April 30, 2001, a total of 170 days.
Mrs. Faithauer’s counsel presented a case of a “facility in crisis,“ during those 170 days and supported this position with inflammatory testimony by former caregivers that Mrs. Faithauer was grossly neglected, treated inhumanely, and that some of Allenbrook’s staff engaged in record tampering. In addition, credible testimony by former Allenbrook caregivers described an administration, which participated in a criminal scheme to embezzle money from Allenbrook using fabricated staffing levels.
The Plaintiff’s “facility in crisis” theme permeated throughout the case and allowed Plaintiffs to portray Allenbrook as a chronically understaffed facility, and one that placed its residents, like Mrs. Faithauer, in imminent danger.
The nature of injuries claimed by the Plaintiff were significant and included the following:
Mrs. Faithauer was allowed to develop a massive stage IV sacral ulcer requiring several procedures for the removal of necrotic tissue and ultimately FLAP surgery for closure. (Graphic photographs of the ulcer were admitted over objection).
Allenbrook dramatically cut Mrs. Faithauer’s oxygen between December 1, 2000 and April 30, 2001, and despite orders for continuous oxygen, Allenbrook administered oxygen to Mrs. Faithauer on only 4 of 450 shifts. Also, despite orders for nebulizer treatments every 4 hours, none of the 1,020 ordered nebulizer treatments were provided; and,
Because of continuous short staffing, and based on Mrs. Faithauer’s own testimony she was forced to defecate in her bed and lie in her own waste for 3-15 hours repeatedly throughout her residency, and on some occasions even ate her meals while lying in her own drying waste;
Despite being admitted for the express purpose of rehabilitation and physical therapy, Mrs. Faithauer was never taken out of her room to physical therapy, and was never gotten out of her bed during her 170-day residency at Allenbrook —all due to chronic short-staffing at the facility;
The Plaintiff also alleged that Mrs. Faithauer developed another large pressure ulcer on her right thigh, which required both chemical and mechanical debridement. The Plaintiff argued that this wound developed because of an improperly placed foley catheter line, and was went untreated as evidenced by gaps in the treatment records.
To further complicate matters, the administrator of Allenbrook at the time of Mrs. Faithauer’s residency was under investigation by the local police department for allegations of theft and payroll fraud. The Plaintiff used portions of the administrator’s video deposition referencing his refusal to answer questions about the destruction of the Plaintiff’s medical records, fabrication of staffing and payroll records, and the embezzlement scheme.
Also, testimony from a handwriting expert demonstrated that certain portions of Mrs. Faithauer’s medical chart were altered in that the treatment nurse’s pen never left the paper when she charted that she had provided treatments/assessments for several consecutive days.
In addition, Mrs. Faithauer’s medical record was missing a number of significant documents including a care plan, ADL flow sheets, weekly skin assessments, and treatment sheets. The Plaintiff contended that the facility either destroyed these documents or never prepared them in the first place, further supporting Plaintiff counsel’s position of a “facility in crisis.”
The defense relied on the improvements in Mrs. Faithauer’s condition while at Allenbrook to defend the care at the facility.
This was a case of documentation versus care. Although the documentation was poor, the physical improvement made by Mrs. Faithauer during her residency, including the healing of various skin lesions strongly suggested that appropriate care was provided at Allenbrook.
“If she did not receive proper care, how else would she have gotten better? When she came to Allenbrook, she weighed 306 pounds and had a stage II pressure ulcer. Allenbrook healed her sore in less than a month and put her on a diet plan which helped her lose over 60 pounds” suggested Molinelli.
This defense verdict, marks the sixth consecutive long-term care defense verdict achieved in three different states (Florida, Mississippi and Texas) by QPWB attorneys since September 2004.
1 The former defense counsel survived and continues to practice law today.
About QPWB: Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. is a civil defense firm with a wide variety of litigation services for healthcare companies, healthcare facilities, physicians and other healthcare licensed professionals and their insurers. The firm’s Litigation Department also provides general liability defense for all businesses, insureds and insurance companies. Our practice groups and industry-based teams ensure clients have access to attorneys with the best expertise, regardless of location. QPWB maintains a tightly integrated network of seven fully staffed offices, six in Florida and one in Mississippi with attorneys licensed in several states.