The family of a 78-year-old Acworth woman who died days after suffering an untreated arm fracture in a Marietta hospice has been awarded $850,000 plus court costs by a Cobb County judge.
Betty Jean Alexander died on July 4, 2013, while a resident of the Brittany House at Kincaid assisted living facility in Marietta, nine days after her arm was fractured there while she was being moved by nursing assistants Jacqueline Dorsey and Udy Moses and hairdresser Sue Torres-Painter, court documents show.
Betty Alexander’s son, Gary Alexander, sued his mother’s caregivers and the companies they worked for after her death, claiming they failed to have her fractured arm treated, which caused a decline in her health and ultimately her death.
A trial in the Cobb County State Court ended in his favor in September, with jurors awarding the family $1 million.
“Ms. Alexander suffered from dementia, and at the time of the incident was bed bound and non-ambulatory,” a subsequent Nov. court order by Cobb State Court Judge David Darden states. “At trial the plaintiff showed that Ms. Alexander suffered a fracture of her right arm, which precipitated her decline and eventual death.”
Darden ordered those found at fault in Betty Alexander’s death, through a negligence of care, to pay Gary Alexander and his mother’s estate a total of $850,000, subject to 8% interest, based on their individual culpability.
The defendants were also ordered to collectively pay Gary Alexander’s costs associated with his wrongful death lawsuit.
American Grace Health Care Services, Inc., a corporate entity doing business as Brittany House, was found to be most at fault in Betty Alexander’s death, court documents show.
The company was deemed to be 45% culpable and ordered to pay $450,000, or 45% of $1 million.
David and Esther Woghiren, who owned and operated Brittany House at Kincaid at the time of Betty Alexander’s death, were found to be 17% and 13% culpable respectively, and ordered to pay $170,000 and $130,000 accordingly.
Dr. Gregory Rainwater, who cared for Betty Alexander, was found to be 15% culpable, for which his payment to her family would have been $150,000.
But Rainwater was dismissed as a defendant in the case, and so his share of the $1 million verdict could not be collected by the Alexander family, hence the judgement to ultimately award $850,000.
Also at fault was Tapestry Hospice, LLC, a hospice care company assigned to provide additional services for Betty Alexander over and above what Brittany House offered, court documents show.
Tapestry Hospice was found to be 10% culpable in her death and ordered to pay $100,000.
Court documents show Dorsey, a nursing assistant for American Grace Health Care Services and Brittany House, was not individually culpable.
Likewise, Moses, a nursing assistant for Tapestry Hospice, was also not personally responsible, the court found. Nor was Torres-Painter, the hairdresser.
“It is apparent to the court that this is what the jury decided. They held American Grace/Brittany House, and the owners of Brittany House at fault, but not their employees,” Darden’s November court order states, adding that “American Grace as employer, is liable for its employees’ negligence.”’
Eric Hertz, the Alexander family’s lead attorney, described the $1 million verdict in the case as “spectacular,” given Betty Alexander’s medical bills associated with her fractured arm were only $3,400.
It was because she was robbed of her dignity in her last days of life, suffering the pain of a fracture without treatment, that the jury felt $1 million was appropriate, Hertz told the MDJ Wednesday.
Betty Alexander was originally from Mableton and worked for 20 years as the switchboard operator at WellStar Cobb Hospital in Austell, her online obituary states.
Gary Alexander of Acworth is one of her four sons, the obituary states.