SavaSeniorCare is one the biggest and most profitable nursing home chains in the U.S owned and operated by entities controlled by New York tycoons Murray Forman and Leonard Grunstein. Last week, a jury in Colorado punished the billion dollar chain with a verdict of $3.7 million. $3.5 million in punitive damages against Belmont Lodge Health Care Center and $200,000 to be awarded to Margaret Smith for her pain and suffering.
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Sava run Belmont Lodge Health Care Center in Pueblo caused the wrongful death of 88-year-old Janet Smith in May 2011. Smith served as a nurse in World War II and the Korean War. Denver-based attorney Jordan Levine represented Smith's daughter, Margaret, who sued after her mother's condition rapidly deteriorated resulting in her death shortly after entering Belmont Lodge for rehabilitation of two broken ankles in April 2011. As a result, she was outfitted with a foley catheter so that she could urinate. Defendants' reckless conduct and neglect related to the monitoring and care for that catheter by Belmont Lodge staff led to a severe urinary tract infection, resulting in Janet's death.
"The nurses failed to keep accurate records, the CNAs failed to keep accurate records, and then one of the records was doctored, falsified," Levine said. "It's not really what's in those records, it's what's not in those records," he said.
Margaret had been at her mother's bedside in the days immediately prior and Janet was alert and communicative. Margaret noticed that the urine in the catheter bag had started turning darker and darker, yet no staff from Belmont Lodge came to empty it or check on it. The next day, May 8, 2011 -- Mother's Day -- Janet was found unresponsive in her room and was sent to Parkview Medical Center.
Levine argued that incomplete and falsified record-keeping on Janet Smith by Belmont Lodge nurses and staff amounted to gross negligence. "The rules are that you're supposed to empty the (catheter) bag, clean the area, and monitor for signs of infection and there was no monitoring whatsoever," Levine said. "All you have to do is order a urinalysis and call the doctor and they didn't do either of those things."
Levine argued that long gaps between visits by nurses or staff compounded the negligence. "There are gaps of 19 hours, 22 hours, and 12 hours of no record of any CNA going in the room," Levine said.
Margaret Smith says employees at the nursing home falsified documents, saying they gave her mother care she never received. "I would want people to know that there are still people there that I don't know that they're getting the treatment they need and it has haunted me for two years," Margaret Smith said.