Daughter appeals nursing home jury verdict

Jan. 25, 2013 @ 03:51 PM

The daughter of a woman who died, according to her lawsuit, as the result of abuse and neglect at the former Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home claims when the case went to trial in Orange County, the judge did not allow critical evidence on her behalf during the trial.
Mary Lou Barthazon, 95, was a resident of the home in 2007 when, according to the initial lawsuit filed in Orange County Civil Superior Court, a nurse’s aide improperly lifted her causing both of her legs to break. Despite her cries of pain, change of behavior and others signs of distress, the nursing home failed to respond to her condition for two weeks, which contributed to her death four days after she was transferred to a hospital, the lawsuit claimed.
When the case went to trial in Orange County in 2011, a jury found in favor of Britthaven. Its attorneys argued there was no proof that what the aide did caused the fractures and provided testimony that older people with osteoporosis can experience spontaneous fractures.
Anne Blanchard, the daughter of Mary Lou Barthazon, filed an appeal.
In an affidavit filed by Anne Duvoisin of Henson & Fuerst on Friday in connection with the appeal, she argued that Judge Shannon R. Joseph incorrectly excluded conclusions made by an administrative law judge that found that the conduct of the nurse’s aide was responsible for the fractures.
The affidavit also states that the way the verdict sheet was written, “short-circuited the deliberative process by directing the jurors to begin and end their deliberations without ever having to consider any evidence as to the operative conduct of the Defendants, which may have constituted ordinary or medical negligence.”
The first question of the verdict sheet was: “Was any conduct of defendant Britthaven an approximate cause of any injury to, or death of, Mary Lou Barthazon?”
Once the jurors agreed that the answer was no, that ended their deliberations, the affidavit stated.
The question required the jury to vote on one element of the plaintiff’s negligence claim – causation – without them having to consider other questions of negligence, the affidavit stated. That allowed the jury to take a shortcut without having to consider and debate the issues of duty and breach of duty.
When the judge excluded the critical evidence from the administrative law judge, it “cut the heart out of Plaintiff’s causation case and allowed the jury to bypass proper deliberation following the detour set out on the ill-conceived verdict sheet,” the affidavit said.
As the case moves forward, Britthaven will file its arguments against Blanchard’s appeal.
Britthaven of Chapel Hill closed last spring.