Malpractice verdict of $4.1 million for nursing home negligence

A $4.1 million medical malpractice judgment was awarded for negligence by a Tennessee nursing home.

The large verdict triggers intensified debate over a bill that would put a cap on the pain and suffering and punitive damages components of large medical malpractice awards.

The plaintiff apparently 'was found with bedsores, an undiagnosed hip fracture and other problems. His daughters' lawsuit alleged that those medical problems were the result of chronic understaffing at a McMinnville nursing home owned by Murfreesboro-based National HealthCare Corp. Awards of high damages, as well as frivolous lawsuits, are behind a renewed effort in the Tennessee legislature to pass a bill to cap damage awards, the bill's promoters say.'

Supporters say the large award will deter future negligence by others, whereas critics say the award will force nursing homes to close and raise the cost to all of defensive medicine.

There are no easy answers. One individual quoted says we need "nursing home reform," not "tort reform." That's true, but it begs the question. The law of negligence aims to set the bar at a balance point - through the standard of 'due care' - where we do not exact more onerous penalties than make sense, but we also demand ethical conduct and proper caution.

Another solution offered was to 'insist on more stringent standards -- for the industry to do better at policing itself and for regulatory bodies to do a more thorough job inspecting facilities.' The ounce of prevention approach is worth considering. And, the judge apparently reduced the punitive damages award - another safeguard on so-called 'runaway' verdicts.

Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers general corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine (also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society), a forum for exploration of legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues involved in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. The most recent published book by Michael H. Cohen on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy pertaining to complementary, alternative and integrative medicine and related fields is Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion. This is the fourth book in a series, following Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).

Health care and corporate lawyer Michael H. Cohen has also been admitted to the Bar of England and Wales as a Solicitor (non-practicing), adding to Bar membership in four U.S. states.