WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - QPWB firm Partners James B. Morrison and Nicole M. Healy recently provided a successful defense of a Boca Raton nursing facility following the plaintiff's claims of negligence, mismanaged care, and record tampering.
In February 2021, a dramatic turn of events unfolded for 89-year-old Ms. Goodman. After a fall at her home, she found herself battling not only a pelvic fracture but also Covid-19, pneumonia, and a mysteriously occurring condition called metabolic encephalopathy. Ten-days following the fall, she was admitted to Boca Raton Regional Hospital where she officially received these diagnoses, and was subsequently transferred to a Boca Raton nursing facility for rehabilitation following treatment. But just four days into her stay at the facility, her pneumonia resurged. Despite the vigilant care of the facility's medical team, on February 13 Ms. Goodman was found unresponsive, with her life slipping away by 7:42 a.m. with the cause cited as cardiac arrest, heart disease, and the relentless Covid-19.
The legal storm that followed was intense. While the Plaintiff pointed fingers at falls, dehydration, and respiratory distress, the Defendant argued that Ms. Goodman's complications were deeply intertwined with her Covid-19 diagnosis. They even invoked the Covid-19 Immunity statute, though their motion was dismissed on both a motion to dismiss, and motion for summary judgment. The Court deferred ruling on the applicability of the Covid-19 Immunity Statute until hearing the evidence of the witnesses.
The Judge decided that the jury would determine the applicability of the Covid-19 Immunity Statute. The Plaintiff’s theory of the case at trial was that Ms. Goodman recovered from her Covid-19 and Defendant’s failure to monitor signs of symptoms of dehydration, led to urinary retention, UTI, and death on February 13, 2021. The Plaintiff relied heavily on nursing records that indicated Ms. Goodman was “feeling fine” on most days. They further focused on two different versions of the nursing chart in discovery which contained varying metadata. One version had time entries for effective and created dates, the other did not. One version also had ADL flow sheets that included CNA initials and the other did not. Plaintiff claimed this was evidence that entries were altered or made after her death and proved evidence of tampering. The defense team, however, had a counter: the charts were electronic and could appear differently when printed, but their content remained unchanged.
The trial revealed that Ms. Goodman had tested positive for Covid-19 just a day before her admission to the nursing facility. The facility had her under strict Covid-19 protocols, and there was no hint of respiratory distress or cardiac issues leading up to her demise. Expert witnesses drove home the point that Ms. Goodman's age and pre-existing conditions made her especially vulnerable to Covid-19. The evidence supported that her death was due to Covid-19.
After three gripping days in court, the jury sided with the facility. The defense, led by the formidable duo of James B. Morrison and Nicole M. Healy of QPWB's West Palm Beach office, emerged victorious.