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Jury Awards $5 Million in Wrongful Death Claim Alleging Inadequate Supervision At Assisted Living Facility

A jury recently awarded $5 million to the family of a 90-year-old woman who died after ingesting detergent at a Detroit-area senior living facility in 2012. Willie Mae Henderson suffered from dementia and was place in The Fountains at Franklin, a Watermark Retirement Communities facility because the facility was promoted as a safe place for residents with dementia and promised to have adequate staffing and supervision. On December 1, 2012, five weeks after Ms. Henderson moved in, she took dishwasher detergent from a kitchen cabinet and ingested it. The incident occurred when a caregiver had been on break, leaving one other caregiver to supervise 17 residents. When the caregiver who was on break returned, he saw Ms. Henderson alone in the dining room. Her head was leaning back and her lips were swollen. She was admitted to the hospital with severe chemical burns to her mouth, esophagus, throat and stomach. A doctor determined that Ms. Henderson was not a candidate for surgery based upon her age and condition. She died 13 days later; the medical examiner determined that the death was caused by the toxic dishwasher detergent.

The lawsuit alleged that the facility was negligent in providing inadequate supervision, failing to keep the cabinets that stored the detergent secure enough to prevent patients from gaining access, and failing to secure the lid on the detergent in the event the cabinet was left unlocked. The defendant argued that either the decedent (who had arthritis), or some unknown person, forcibly tore a hinge off the cabinet to get access to the chemical. The claim sought damages include compensation for her pain and suffering from the time of injury until her death, the loss of society and companionship suffered by her family due to her loss, and payment of funeral and burial expenses. The jury reached the verdict after a seven-day trial and less than three hours of deliberation. The family was awarded exactly the amount sought.

When we place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility, we expect them to be cared for and protected. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients require extra care because they tend to wander, become disoriented, and lost. When we hear stories like this, it makes us all wonder about the safety of our aging loved ones.

Anytime someone loses a loved one, it is devastating both emotionally and mentally. It may be shattering financially, as well. The financial and emotional roller coaster of a lawsuit is equally as painful as the loss. If you or a loved one suffered physical or emotional injuries because an assisted living facility or nursing home was negligent or failed to fulfill its care obligations to you and your family, you may have grounds for a nursing home negligence case.

If you are seeking lawsuit funding in an assisted living abuse or negligence case, begin by completing our lawsuit funding application. Lawsuit Financial provides non-recourse funding to help financially strapped plaintiffs during their pending lawsuit. We offer a quick and easy approval process – typically in under 48 hours. There are no upfront fees, monthly payments, credit checks or employment verifications. Because funding is provided on a non-recourse cash advance, if you lose your case you owe nothing. It really is a risk-free “lawsuit loan” option for plaintiffs.