Joseph Roberts would not live to see the jury verdict in the lawsuit he filed against the Carriage Hill Health & Rehab Center in Virginia, as he passed away in June at 49 years-old from unrelated health problems. His negligence lawsuit, after the jury’s verdict, may cost the 150-bed nursing home a staggering $1.45M.
The lawsuit was filed by the plaintiff’s Washington, D.C. lawyers after Roberts sustained second and third degree burns on June 3, 2011 while he was smoking a cigarette alone outside the Virginia nursing home. He was in a wheelchair at the time, and his sweatpants caught fire when a burning ember fell from the cigarette onto his feet. A staffer had left Roberts outside unattended–knowing he was going to smoke–despite the facility’s non-smoking restrictions. Roberts had been taking medicine during this time that restricted his physical and mental abilities. He also suffered from back problems, strokes, arm paralysis, poor safety awareness and leg numbness, all of which impaired his ability to escape the flames. Nursing home employees found Roberts on the ground on fire. He was later admitted into the intensive care unit at VCU Medical Center in Richmond with serious burns. His medical expenses were substantial, exceeding $600,000.
The lawsuit filed by The Cochran Firm claims that the nursing home failed to take proper care of Roberts and that he should not have been left unattended. It was also alleged that the facility did not properly enforce its smoking policy, which ultimately led to Robert’s injuries. Roberts’ attorneys maintain that the outcome of the lawsuit sends a message to other elder care facilities as to what proper care-taking entails.
A Spotsylvania County, VA jury awarded Roberts $1.28 million, plus $170,000 in interest. The large award will be divided among Roberts’ close relatives.
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