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Suffolk County (Boston) Jury Gives 64 Year Old Woman $3,200,000

Personal Injury/Product Liability

Injuries alleged: Brain Injury
Tried before jury : Jury Verdict
Name of Judge: Judge Carol Ball
Special Damages: $890,000 (lost earning capacity and present cost of future medicals)
Amount (specify award or settlement): $3,200,000.00 (including interest)
Date (of verdict or settlement): May 17, 2005
Highest Offer: $0.00

Other useful information:

Plaintiff is a 64 year old nurse who was working as a nurse in a local nursing home when she received an electrical shock while plugging an oxygen container in to an electrical outlet in a patient's room on December 24, 2000. The outlet was on the right side of the patient's bed. Previously, on November 15, 2000, another nurse had filled out a Repair Requisition indicating that sparks were coming out of a plug when she attempted to plug in an over bed lamp in the same patient's room. Without speaking with the nurse, the nursing home's repair man looked an outlet on the left side of the patient's bed and replaced a light. The nurse, who filled out the Repair Requisition testified at deposition and trial that she was referring to an outlet on the right side of the patient's bed. When the plaintiff came in to the patient's room on December 24, 2000, she received an electrical shock, went in to seizures, became incontinent, was rendered unconscious for eight to ten minutes and was paralyzed on the left side of her face.

Suit was brought against the corporate owner of the nursing home on a theories of direct and vicarious liability. During the two week trial, the defendant contended that it did not have the right to control the nursing home employees regarding maintenance and repairs because, among other things, the nursing home administrator was the only person licensed to operate the nursing home. However, on cross examination, the defendant's CEO, admitted that he had the right to control the nursing home administrator regarding repairs but he never exercised the control.

Defendant also contended that the repair man acted reasonably in examining the outlet on the left side of the bed because the cord from the over bed light (mentioned in the Repair Requisition) could not reach the outlet on the right side of the patient's bed.

Defendant's expert opined that the cause of the plaintiff's injury could not be determined because there was no physical evidence to examine. (The nursing home administrator had decided to throw away the subject electrical outlet; and the oxygen concentrator, which had been placed back in to service, could not later be identified.)

Plaintiff's liability expert testified that the repair man should have spoken with the nurse to determine which outlet was sparking; tested and replaced the outlet. He also opined that the likely cause of the Plaintiff's injury was a defective electrical outlet.

Plaintiff had been a nurse for nearly forty years and was planned to work as long as she was physically able. Plaintiff presented experts in geriatric psychiatry, neuropsychology, vocational rehabilitation who testified that the plaintiff was permanently disabled from being employed in any job. Plaintiff was presented an expert in traumatic brain injury who testified regarding the plaintiff's future medical needs.

Jury selection was aided by Judge Carol Ball allowing significant amount of attorney voir dire.

After two weeks of trial, the jury found the defendant vicariously liable for the negligent actions of the nursing home employees and awarded the plaintiff $3,200,000.00 (including interest).