Jury sides with facility in SNF wrongful death case

A jury ruled in favor of a New Hampshire nursing home on Thursday, finding the facility did not act improperly in the 2011 death of a resident.

Byam Whitney Jr. was admitted to Kindred Healthcare and Greenbriar Terrace in Nashua, NH after developing pneumonia and pressure ulcers, ultimately leading to sepsis and his death in the facility at age 84.

Whitney's family sued the facility earlier this year, claiming staff did not discover the ulcers soon enough, failed to properly document the wounds and failed to use pressure-relieving devices on Whitney in a timely manner. The jury found no wrongdoing on Kindred's behalf after two hours of deliberation on Thursday.

The hospital where Whitney received treatment before coming to Kindred was included in the original lawsuit, but was removed prior to the suit going to trial.

Attorneys for the family maintained that Whitney's ulcers could have been managed and healed with antibiotics and proper care, according to local reports. Medical experts who testified during the nine day trial disagreed, noting Whitney had a variety of medical conditions before being admitted, including dementia and bruising from a prior fall located in the places where pressure ulcers eventually developed.

The witnesses also vouched for the facility's use of pressure-relieving devices, such as a specialized airflow mattress and an extra-cushioned wheelchair, as well as nine calls made to physicians by Kindred staff to receive advice on how to treat Whitney's wounds.

"It's important for you to realize care providers did do certain interventions, things to mitigate the risk of pressure ulcer development and worsening, trying to promote healing," Bradley Holt, an attorney for Kindred said during opening statements in the case.

Whitney's death wasn't necessarily an indicator of substandard care, and his pre-existing medical conditions required staff to be judicious in their treatment options, Holt added.