Jury awards $5.5 million in suit against Pueblo nursing home - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Jury awards $5.5 million in suit against Pueblo nursing home

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Life Care Center of Pueblo Life Care Center of Pueblo

A Pueblo jury awarded what is believed to be record $5.5 million in damages Friday in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Life Care Center of Pueblo.  The case was the most recent of three wrongful death suits filed against the nursing home, which uses the legal name Pueblo Medical Investors Ltd.

Jurors awarded the family of Sophia Alcon $500,000 in damages for wrongful death, $57,000 for negligence and  $5 million in punitive damages. The other lawsuits involve the deaths of Dorothy Balch in November of 2013 and Sophia LaCombe in August of 2014

Alcon was first admitted to the Life Care Center in April of 2013 and died six months later.  Attorney Brent L. Moss said she suffered repeated instances of abuse and neglect during her stay.

"You saw a precipitous decline in her weight, she received numerous infections, she started to develop bed sores along with a urinary tract infection," said Moss.

In the lawsuit, Moss pointed out that state inspectors cited the facility for deficiencies relevant to Alcon's injuries and argued the facility was chronically understaffed.

"There was more staffing on Hall 100 as opposed to 300 which coincided with a sharp decline for Ms. Alcon," Moss said.

The nursing home profile on the Medicare website lists two federal fines against the Life Care Center of Pueblo amounting to more than $28,000.

News 5 Investigates also searched state health and safety inspections and found 24 reports of physical abuse, two reports of patients who suffered brain injuries and a report of patient who died after falling out of bed.

Moss explained that when Inspectors with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment visit nursing homes they select a random sample of patients to look for health or safety violations.

There are not enough inspectors to track every patient individually.  So, he encourages families to be advocates for their loved ones.

"No matter what nursing home it is, I'd just encourage them to visit and be involved and to monitor for signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect and to take it up with the management of the nursing home and to document what they find and see," Moss said.

Life Care Centers of America is the parent company of the Life Care Center of Pueblo. The for profit corporation is based in Cleveland, Tennessee and owns more than 200 nursing facilities nationwide. 

On May 3, the US Justice Department filed suit against company owner Forrest Preston alleging that his company engaged in a widespread scheme to maximize Medicare billing.

In a statement to News 5 Investigates, Life Care Center of Pueblo Executive Director Keith Jackson said:

"At Life Care Center of Pueblo, residents are our highest priority.  On Friday, May 13, 2016, a ruling was issued at the trial of a lawsuit involving Life Care Center of Pueblo.  Our legal team will appeal this ruling, and due to the ongoing judicial process and HIPAA, we cannot provide further information regarding this lawsuit or other cases. As they proceed, we remain steadfast in our commitment to providing quality resident care."

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