Record verdict highlights the injustice of caps on non-economic damages
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — August 21, 2023
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND—Last Thursday, a Baltimore County jury awarded $9,045,000.00 to the estate, widow, and children of Randolph Mack. The jury found that Mr. Mack died from a painful, infected pressure injury (also known as a bedsore or pressure ulcer) caused by the negligence of Stella Maris, Inc., the second-largest nursing home in Maryland. Mr. Mack’s estate and family were represented by Janet, Janet & Suggs and Ketterer, Browne & Associates.
The jury rendered the verdict after a seven-day trial and nearly five hours of deliberations. It is believed to be the highest verdict ever recorded in a Maryland nursing home case. The verdict included $8 million as compensation to Mr. Mack’s estate for his pain and suffering and $1.045 million for the emotional harm suffered by the Mack family.
Mr. Mack was a pastor, father, and grandfather in Baltimore County. An autopsy determined that Mr. Mack was killed by a severe, painful pressure injury (bedsore) near his tailbone and the resulting consequences of this injury. The bedsore began and substantially worsened while Mr. Mack was a resident at Stella Maris.
Mr. Mack’s medical records showed that the nursing home left him on his back for many hours at a time without being repositioned, which caused the pressure injury to develop and deteriorate into a Stage IV wound (the highest stage). In Maryland, nursing home residents like Mr. Mack must be turned and repositioned at least every two hours to prevent severe, life-threatening pressure injuries like the one Mr. Mack endured. According to experts who testified for the Mack family, Stella Maris did not monitor and implement an appropriate care plan to prevent and treat the pressure injury. And evidence showed that Mr. Mack was not regularly cleaned and changed, causing him to lie in his own feces for prolonged periods of time, which likely caused and worsened the breakdown of his skin and development of his severe pressure injury. Stella Maris nonetheless charged approximately $1,000 a day for services it claims to have provided to Mr. Mack.
The jury appears not to have credited the testimony of experts retained by Stella Maris, which was represented by Gallagher, Evelius & Jones. These included a dermatologist whom Stella Maris paid over $30,000 to testify on its behalf. Stella Maris never paid for a dermatologist to evaluate Mr. Mack when he was alive, however.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to share the Mack family’s truth with the jurors in my community,” said attorney Reza Davani of Ketterer Brown and Associates, which, with Janet, Janet & Suggs, represented the Mack family. “I appreciate those jurors, in turn, sharing that truth with the defendant nursing home through their verdict,” he said.
“It was an honor and privilege to work with this trial team to bring justice to the Mack family for the tremendous injury and loss that they suffered,” said attorney Tara Eberly Kellermeyer of Janet, Janet & Suggs, who tried the case with Reza Davani. “It is their hope, and ours, that this verdict will emphasize to nursing homes the importance of safety standards intended to protect our most vulnerable residents. A failure to follow these standards can be a matter of life and death.”
Timonium-based Stella Maris, Inc., affiliated with Mercy Health Services, was the sole defendant before the jury. Nominally a non-profit entity sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Stella Maris had $67 million in net assets at the end of 2022.1
Although the six-member jury, composed of community members accepted by both sides, arrived at the verdict after lengthy deliberations, Maryland law requires it to be reduced by nearly 90 percent, from $9,045,000 to just over $1 million, under Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages.2 This is half the amount recoverable in non-medical malpractice wrongful death cases.
“Despite the severe, tragic impact of nursing home and other corporate negligence, Maryland and other states have unfairly and unjustly limited the compensation families in negligence and health care malpractice cases are able to recover for their enormous human damages, such as the emotional harm that surviving family members often endure for the rest of their lives,” said Patrick A. Thronson and Andrew S. Janet, partners at Janet, Janet & Suggs. “Corporations that all too often act with careless disregard for the law and human life deserve no special treatment. Maryland law should no longer demean the suffering of victims of nursing home and health care malpractice through this discriminatory, unjust limit on human damages.”
The negligence of corporate nursing homes has inflicted tremendous human and economic damage in the United States. In 2014, a landmark federal study reported that approximately 22 percent of nursing home patients experienced preventable “adverse events,” including “substandard treatment, inadequate patient monitoring, and failure or delay of necessary care.”3 More than half of the patients harmed by nursing homes required hospital care, for which Medicare paid an estimated $2.8 billion in 2011 alone.4 Meanwhile, the number of people needing nursing home care is increasing rapidly, from 1.35 million in 2020 to a projected 2.3 million in 2030.5
The case is Rhonda Mack, et al. v. Stella Maris, Inc., et al., case no. C-03-CV-22-002421, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.
About Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC
Janet, Janet, & Suggs, LLC. (JJS) is a national firm with offices in 10 states and Washington D.C. The firm has decades of experience handling catastrophic injury cases and has won over three billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for clients across a wide range of serious and complex cases.
About Ketterer, Browne & Associates, LLC
Ketterer Browne & Associates (KBA) is one of the leading national trial firms in the United States with lawyers in five states. Recognized by both colleagues and adversaries as leaders and innovators of the bar, KBA has gained the reputation of finding creative solutions for complex cases. Because of this, KBA is able to aggressively litigate for its clients and obtain the maximum value for their cases.
*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome*
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Tammy Huoni‑Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC
- See Md. Code Ann., Cts. Jud. Proc. § 3-2A-09.
- U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, “Adverse Events in Skilled Nursing Facilities: National Incidence among Medicare Beneficiaries,” February 2014, https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-11-00370.pdf.
- See Mather, Scommegna, and Kilduff, “Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States;” and Kaiser Family Foundation, “Total Number Residents in Certified Nursing Facilities,” http://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/number-of-nursing-facility-residents/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D.