Heartland of Martinsburg ordered to give up info to plaintiffs lawyers

By John O'Brien | Jul 31, 2013

MARTINSBURG – A nursing home chain facing a $90 million verdict has been ordered to comply with several discovery requests made by plaintiffs attorneys.

On July 10, Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge John Yoder granted the discovery requests made by attorneys from the out-of-state firm Wilkes & McHugh in a lawsuit over the treatment Harold P. Lewis received while a resident at Heartland of Martinsburg, owned by HCR Manor Care.

HCR Manor Care, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, is facing a Kanawha County verdict of more than $90 million. It has appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Yoder’s ruling came in the case of Harold P. Lewis, who died July 18, and could have implications for the other six lawsuits filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court against HCR Manor Care since 2012.

The complaint said Lewis was a resident at Heartland of Martinsburg from Oct. 26, 2010, to March 26, 2011. While there, he suffered a broken right hip in a fall, the suit says, and the staff failed to prevent numerous urinary tract infections, an upper respiratory infection and sepsis.

The lawsuit requires HCR Manor Care to disclose:

-All 24-hour reports, shower and bathsheets and a gatekeeper log for Lewis;

-All incident and accident reports for Lewis;

-Facility budgets for Heartland during the period of Lewis’ residency, which will be subject to a protective order;

-Policies and procedures as they pertain to state law;

-Documents pertaining to all in-services held for members of the nursing department during Lewis’ residency;

-All resident council meeting minutes pertaining to meetings that took place during Lewis’ residency;

-Employee files for members of the nursing staff who provided care to Lewis;

-Results of mock surveys performed six months prior to and during Lewis’ residency; and

-Care Line reports during Lewis’ residency specifically related to staffing, and all concern forms filled out by staff, residents or families of residents from 2010 to 2011.

The lawyers at Wilkes & McHugh, Carl Wilander of the Tampa office and Ryan J. Duty of the Pittsburgh office, are already using the discovery order in another case.

In that case, it is alleged the staff at Heartland failed to keep Harry Lee Noll from developing pressure sores. The two sides, represented by the same attorneys, had a similar discovery dispute.

“Because Judge Yoder has already overruled Defendants’ objections to many of the same documents that Plaintiff is requesting in the instant lawsuit, this Honorable Court should also overrule Defendants’ objections to them in this case…” the plaintiffs attorneys wrote.

On July 3, the attorneys filed a motion to compel better answers to discovery requests in a lawsuit over Heartland’s treatment of Eleanor Finch.

Heartland of Charleston and HCR Manor Care were recently on the wrong end of a ruling in Kanawha Circuit Court. In April, Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. denied a motion for a new trial in a lawsuit that resulted in a jury verdict of more than $90 million.

In August 2011, the jury found Heartland of Charleston had failed to feed and care for Dorothy Douglas, who plaintiffs lawyers say died of dehydration complications after she left the nursing home. Douglas’ death certificate listed the immediate cause of death as dementia.

The jury stated 80 percent of Heartland of Charleston’s fault was ordinary negligence and the other 20 percent was medical negligence. The jury awarded Dorothy Douglas’ family $11.5 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages. The trial began July 26, 2011.

The defendants are appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court, arguing caps implemented in the Medical Professional Liability Act on non-economic damages apply to nursing homes.

On May 13, HCR Manor Care settled a Berkeley Circuit Court lawsuit brought on behalf of the Estate of Christina L. Frazier for a confidential amount.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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