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Jury Awards $2.5 Million To Family Of Alzheimer's Patient Who Died In Nursing Home

Oct 22, 2003 | AP A jury in Jefferson County awarded $2.5 million to the family of a woman who died in a nursing home that the state later shut down.

The son of Gladys Forbis said Tuesday that his family is as "happy as we can be" with the verdict. Gary Forbis said the family had waited seven years for a jury to confirm what they believed: that the old Pavilion Health Care Center contributed to his mother's death.

The jury found that substandard care contributed to the death of Forbis, an Alzheimer's patient, in 1996.

She moved to Pavilion in February 1992 and died there Aug. 15, 1996 at age 69.

An initial death certificate attributed her death to natural causes related to Alzheimer's disease. A subsequent death certificate, filed after an autopsy, listed the cause as blunt-force skin injuries and inhalation of blood into her respiratory system.

The family had alleged that the bleeding came from an inner-lip wound that went untreated for too long.

Family members also cited multiple unexplained bruises that Forbis incurred in her last six months as a sign of abuse or neglect, according to a statement filed in court on behalf of the plaintiffs.

During the two-week trial, the jury did not hear that the state had revoked Pavilion's license in 1998 and shut down the home.

In 2001 the former managers of the home agreed to pay $1.2 million for neglecting patients, some of whom had bed sores, in what was reported then as the largest criminal penalty of its kind in U.S. history.

Attorneys for the nursing home had argued that Forbis' death was the result of the effects of Alzheimer's.

Nine jurors found that Pavilion failed to comply with their duty to care for Forbis and that the failure was a substantial factor in her death. Nine is minimum number of jurors necessary for a civil trial verdict.

The jury's award consisted of $320,000 to compensate the estate and $2.2 million in punitive damages.

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