On October 20, 2011, a West Virginia circuit court judge upheld over $90 million of the $91.5 million in damages awarded to a man in connection to the death of his 87-year-old mother.
Tom Douglas placed his mother in the Heartland of Charleston Nursing Home temporarily in September 2009. She suffered from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and was waiting for a room to open at Heritage Center, a facility that Mr. Douglas felt was better equipped to care for her. After three weeks at Heartland of Charleston, the victim was moved to Heritage Center where nurses noticed sores and bruises on her body, and she appeared to be dehydrated. She was also unresponsive. The next day, she died in Cabell Huntington Hospital. The cause of death, the suit alleges, was dehydration.
Mr. Douglas filed a negligence lawsuit against Heartland of Charleston Nursing Home. Negligence occurs when one party does not fulfill its duty to another party, resulting in injury to the second party. In this case, the duty of the nursing home and its staff was to provide proper care to the victim, but they neglected to do so, resulting in her deteriorating condition and eventual death.
The damages award in this case is broken into two types, compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for lost income, pain and suffering, and medical costs. The compensatory damages were $11 million originally in this case. Punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff as a punishment to the defendant in the hopes that the defendant will not act in the same manner again. The punitive damages were $80 million.