The West Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments by the parent company of a nursing home during the appeal of a more than $90 million verdict.
The original case involved the death of an 87-year-old woman, Dorothy Douglas. Douglas spent 19 days at Heartland of Charleston, a 184-bed nursing and rehab center and died shortly thereafter. The estate sued Heartland’s parent company, alleging that the nursing home failed to feed and care for Douglas.
After hearing the evidence a jury agreed and awarded the family $11.5 million in compensatory damages, and $80 million in punitive damages. The company appealed, but a circuit judge denied a new trial, saying the verdict was neither unconstitutional nor excessive.
The company then appealed to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the state’s Medical Professional Liability Act, which includes a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages, applies to nursing homes.
It seeks to have the $80 million award for punitive damages vacated. The West Virginia Supreme Court has now heard arguments from both sides and will decide later this year whether nursing homes are subject to the cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.