Judge approves $38 million settlement in ManorCare case

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Judge Paul Zakaib
Judge Paul Zakaib

HCR ManorCare will pay $38 million under a legal settlement recently approved by a judge in West Virginia. The award to plaintiffs was originally $91 million until the state Supreme Court reduced it in June.

The case involves the Heartland Nursing Home in Charleston, where 87-year-old Dorothy Douglas was admitted in September 2009. During her 19-day stay, she went from being able to walk, talk and recognize family members to being “dehydrated, malnourished, bed ridden and barely responsive,” according to court documents. She died about two weeks after being discharged. Her family members sued, saying that negligent care and inadequate staffing at the nursing home had caused her death.

In 2011, a jury handed down the $91 million verdict. This set off appeals that ultimately reached the state's Supreme Court. There, justices reduced the damages to $38 million for various reasons — including that part of the verdict form was “fatally vague” —  and remanded the action to circuit court.

Judge Paul Zakaib approved the settlement amount in an Oct. 20 order, and the nursing home lawyers withdrew a request for the state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision, according to local news sources. In previously upholding the $91 million amount, Zakaib said that a sum of that magnitude was necessary to cause a “wealthy company” such as HCR ManorCare to take note and change its practices.

Douglas' son and daughter will receive a total of $20.5 million, according to the Charleston Daily Mail. Attorneys' fees are about $17 million of the total settlement.

The case compelled the West Virginia legislature to pass a bill clarifying that a medical malpractice cap applies to nursing home cases.

The Heartland nursing home was sold to Stonerise Healthcare in 2013, according to the Charleston Gazette. The 184-bed facility now is called Eastbrook Center LLC.

HCR ManorCare is owned by private equity firm The Carlyle Group. McKnight's contacted ManorCare via The Carlyle Group's communications office. No response had been received as of press time.