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Jennings v. Berea Area Development, LLC

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 15, 2018

PATTY JENNINGS, AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ELIZA JENNINGS, DECEASED, AND ON BEHALF OF THE WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF ELIZA JENNINGS APPELLANT
v.
BEREA AREA DEVELOPMENT, LLC, d/b/a THE TERRACE NURSING & REHABILITATION FACILITY APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM MADISON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE JEAN CHENAULT LOGUE, JUDGE ACTION NO. 10-CI-00551

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Corey T. Fannin Ross F. Mann Lexington, Kentucky.

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEES: Calvin R. Fulkerson T. Chad Thompson Lexington, Kentucky.

          BEFORE: CLAYTON, CHIEF JUDGE; ACREE AND J. LAMBERT, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          LAMBERT, J., JUDGE.

         Patty Jennings, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Eliza Jennings, deceased, and on behalf of the Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of Eliza Jennings (the Estate), appeals from a judgment of the Madison Circuit Court granting a new trial to Berea Area Development, LLC, d/b/a The Terrace Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility (the Terrace) after a jury verdict in favor of the Estate.[1]The Estate argues that the circuit court abused its discretion in granting the Terrace's motion and that, at most, it should have granted only a partial retrial. We find no abuse of discretion. Based on the recent decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court in Overstreet v. Kindred Nursing Centers Ltd. P'ship, 479 S.W.3d 69 (Ky. 2015), we conclude that, as the statutory duties merely codify the common-law standard of care and do not survive the death of the resident, the circuit court properly set aside the jury verdict and ordered a new trial. Hence, we affirm.

         The relevant facts of this appeal are not in dispute. The Terrace is a long-term care facility located in Berea, Kentucky. In 2004, Eliza Jennings, no longer able to care for herself, became a resident of the Terrace. At the time of her admission, Jennings was 85 years old. She remained there, except for hospitalizations in the interim, until her death on January 15, 2009.

         In April 2010, the Estate[2] brought this action against the Terrace, alleging negligence, medical negligence, corporate negligence, wrongful death, and violations of the long-term Residents' Rights Act, Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 216.515. The parties conducted extensive discovery and engaged in motion practice over the next five years.

         The matter proceeded to a jury trial on June 15, 2015. The trial lasted eight days. At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury found that the Terrace breached the duties it owed to Jennings. The jury also found that the Terrace's failure to observe these duties was a substantial factor in causing Jennings' injuries and hastened her death. The verdict was apportioned as follows:

• Physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life until the time of death: $4, 000, 000.00.
• Deprivation or infringement of right to be free from chemical and physical restraints except in emergencies or except as thoroughly justified in writing by a physician for a specified and limited period of time and documented in the resident's medical record: $500, 000.00.
• Failure to treat the resident with consideration, respect, and full recognition of dignity and individuality, including privacy in treatment and in care for personal needs: $2, 000, 000.00.
• Failure to inform the resident and responsible party or family member or guardian of the resident's medical condition unless medically contraindicated and documented by a physician in the ...

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