Opinion: Jury Award for Nursing Home Abuse Sends Strong Warning to All Oklahoma Care Facilities
A recent million dollar jury award against an Oklahoma City nursing home for negligence and abuse was good news not only for the family of an abused senior but for all Oklahoma nursing home residents.
Last month a jury awarded $1.21 million to the family of Eryetha Mayberry. Ms. Mayberry, now deceased, was a resident of Quail Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in northwest Oklahoma City. Mayberry, age 96 at the time, experienced the horrendous mistreatment in 2012, and the abuse was captured by a hidden camera her daughters had placed in her room.
Westlake Nursing Home Limited Partnership, which formerly owned the facility, was the defendant in the federal lawsuit. The partnership’s defense was that the home had employee policies forbidding such abuse and the corporation should not be held liable for employees’ failure to follow the rules.
This jury award sends a strong warning to all Oklahoma nursing homes that good policies on paper are not enough. Nursing home residents and their families have a right to expect a care facility to train its employees, oversee their performance and make sure residents are well cared for and not being subjected to abuse.
The jury declared the nursing home guilty of negligence and abuse, including negligence in patient care and in selecting and training staff. It awarded $1.2 million dollars in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. Mayberry passed away in July 2012, just a few months after the abuse was captured on video. Her three daughters filed the lawsuit. The nursing home said it would appeal the award.
It is the second time the Mayberry case has had a big impact on the nursing home industry. The family’s placement of a camera in Mayberry’s room raised questions about the permissibility of hidden recording devices in nursing homes. That debate led to passage of the Protect Our Loved Ones Act in 2013. The Oklahoma state law allows nursing home residents and their loved ones to install video and audio recording equipment in a resident’s room. The law also makes such recordings admissible in court as evidence of abuse and neglect.
The daughters installed the camera because they suspected someone was stealing from their mother. Instead, they were shocked to discover that their mother was suffering unthinkable abuse at the hands of two nursing home employees. The recording showed one employee shoving latex gloves into the woman’s mouth as the other employee watched; it showed an employee slapping the woman in the face; it showed an employee jerking the woman by the arms out of her wheelchair.
One of the former nursing home employees served time in prison and has been deported to Nigeria. The other employee skipped bail and is still missing.
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