A Georgia lawyer and nursing home operator was ordered last week to pay $43.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, one of the largest nursing home abuse verdicts ever recorded in the state. The settlement is to go the estate of a man whose family claimed he received negligent care at Rome Nursing Home, a care facility that had already been cited for numerous state and federal violations.
Loretta Terhune filed the wrongful death complaint last year on behalf of her father, 80-year-old Morris Ellison who died in April 2007. Terhune charged that the nursing home, operated by George D. Houser, was negligent in its care of her father, which led to his death. But for Houser, the wrongful death suit might just be the start of his troubles.
It is alleged that Houser, who operated the Forum Group Corp. and its subsidiary, Forum Group at Moran Lake Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Rome, had bilked the Medicare and Medicaid programs of more than $30 million, according to federal charges filed in April of 2010. Houser and his wife may have funneled that money meant for their nursing homes into luxury cars and real estate, including a $1.3 million home for George Housers ex-wife.
In the one year that Morris Ellison was admitted to the facility, he fell numerous times, even breaking a hip on one occasion. He was severely neglected at the time of his death, suffering from malnourishment and dehydration according his nursing home attorneys. The nursing home never notified Mr. Ellisons family of the injuries. During the trial, a nursing home director testifies that the facility did not have enough funds to pay bills, order supplies, or even do laundry.