Thursday, December 31, 2009

NYC Nursing Home to Pay $19M in Damages for Patient Neglect

A Brooklyn nursing home will have to fork over nearly $19 million in damages to the family of a 76-year-old patient neglected so badly that he left with more than 20 bedsores.

The massive award, handed down by a Brooklyn jury earlier this month, is the first in the state against a nursing home that includes punitive damages, lawyers said.

"It was horrible," said Margaret Whitehurst, 55, who pulled her father, John Danzy, from the Brooklyn Queens Nursing Home after just nine months. "He walked in on two legs and a cane. He was 237 pounds. When we got him back, he was 148 pounds and he had holes all over his body."

She and her siblings moved Danzy, a retired truck driver and butcher, to another nursing home. Six months later, in November 2003, he succumbed to an infection caused by the bedsores, according to testimony.

A Brooklyn jury deliberated two full days following the four-week trial before finding the Cypress Hills facility delivered substandard care.

The panel awarded $3.75 million for Danzy's pain and suffering, but tacked on $15 million in punitive damages, based in part on the allegation that the home had doctored records to try to cover up the neglect.

Lawyer Dennis Kelly said the first-ever imposition of punitive damages against a nursing home in New York state was due in part to evidence that the home tried to cover up the lack of care Danzy was getting.

An FBI expert testified that about 100 different skin-check notes showing "G" for "good" had been penned over to show "B" for "broken" — an effort by the home to claim it hadn't missed the horrific sores, Kelly said.

"Someone went back and wrote B's over the G's to cover their tracks, so they falsified the records, he said. "We believe that once they found out they were being sued, they went back and said, 'How could we have G's here when they guy has 20 sores?' "

The home's CEO, Leopold Berkowitz, did not return a call for comment, and the home's lawyer hung up on a Post reporter.

Kelly said the nursing home restrained the Alzheimer's-stricken Danzy to keep him from wandering off, but left him unattended for long periods.

He said medical standards require that bedridden or restrained patients be moved every two hours to prevent such sores, but that Brooklyn-Queens only moved Danzy every four hours — if at all.

Another of Danzy's daughters, Cynthia, said she and her siblings chose Brooklyn Queens because it was the only facility that had a bed available in 2002, when they realized he could no longer live on his own.

But it's a decision she'll regret forever.

"I think they should be shut down," said Cynthia Danzy, 46. "No one should endure that.",2933,581276,00.html