Pennsylvania court allows another plaintiff to seek punitive damages from Golden Living

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The family of a nursing home resident who died — at least in part, due to pressure ulcers — can pursue punitive damages in a wrongful death suit against Golden LivingCenter-Stroud. 

Federal magistrate Martin C. Carlson ruled this week that the family of Mary Ann Miller has grounds to seek damages in light of allegations that the facility failed to address her wound risk and later falsified medical records to cover it up. 

This “is suggestive of a consciousness of guilt, and would provide evidentiary support for the mental state needed to sustain a punitive damages claim,” Carlson wrote. 

Miller's family filed a 31-page civil complaint, claiming Golden Living staff overlooked the 79-year-old woman's high risk for bed sores. She was admitted for rehabilitation services related to a broken hip and surgical repair in November 2015. 

She died in February 2016, and an autopsy called two pressure ulcers a contributing factor, according to court records.

Golden Living did not respond to request for comment before McKnight's production deadline.

The company had sought a dismissal of the punitive damage claim, citing Pennsylvania's strict rules about non-harm awards. Carlson disagreed. 

“The well-pleaded facts set forth in the (plaintiff's) complaint plausibly state a claim for punitive damages under Pennsylvania law since, fairly construed, this complaint alleges that the defendants were subjectively aware of Mrs. Miller's heightened susceptibility to bed sores, yet neglected to treat this condition until Mrs. Miller was suffering from stage 5 necrotic ulcers,” Carlson wrote. 

In January, a different federal judge allowed punitive damage claims to proceed against another Golden Living nursing home where lawyers say a woman fell seven times before being transferred with a dislocated hip.