Judge Marlon Jones
9421 Washingtonian Boulevard
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878
RE: Steven Williams, et al. v. Johnson Nursing Home
Dear Judge Jones:
This is a wrongful death/survival action nursing home case against Johnson Nursing (Rossville) involving the unnecessary death and abject suffering before the death of Willonell Williams, by all accounts a sweet 74-year-old woman. As you probably know, the Rossville facility has an awful history of not complying with reasonable standards of care. This case is no exception to that unfortunate fact. Our clients are Ms. Williams’s estate and her son, Steven Williams. Because Mr. Williams is legally blind, his wife Marianne is Plaintiffs’ primary fact witness and was the decedent’s primary caretaker.
A few months before her death, Ms. Williams was living with her son and his wife. She was doing well and enjoying her daily routine which consisted of a lot of television. She could ambulate throughout most of the house with some limitations.
In February 2016, after having increasing difficulties with bowel irritation, caused by lack of blood flow in her colon, Ms. Williams had a subtotal resection with colostomy and ileostomy. After her surgery, Plaintiff was using what she was told would be a temporary colostomy bag. She went to Heritage after the surgery to recuperate (where, parenthetically, she received excellent care) but returned to Franklin Square after suffering from dehydration. Upon discharge, she was admitted to Johnson Nursing.
The care at Johnson Nursing was atrocious. Setting aside the inadequate care that was awful on a human level but not related to this case; they didn’t change her colostomy bags on a regular basis. On April 18, 2015, she had a leak in her colostomy bag. Johnson Nursing chose to solve the problem by putting a towel on her stomach. A towel. In extreme pain, Ms. Williams had to call her daughter-in-law who drove to the nursing home. Her daughter-in-law saw the bag was disconnected and the feces were leaking onto Ms. Williams’s abdomen and burning her. She immediately called 911.
More Samples and Case Values
It is important to underscore how egregious Defendant’s conduct was in this case. It is such a simple, classic case of neglect that every juror will fully understand. The Franklin Square Hospital staff found the condition so atrocious that they called the Ombudsman reporting the condition.
Fecal matter infiltrated her body. Ms. Williams died of sepsis, respiratory failure and congestive heart failure. Plaintiffs’ experts will definitively opine that these conditions led to her death and were a consequence of the leaking fecal matter in her body. (Defendant will half-heartedly argue at the mediation that Ms. Williams died of other causes but I don’t expect we are going to hear that from a testifying expert.)
Posture of the Case
Plaintiffs have filed suit and both parties have answered initial discovery. Defendant noted Plaintiffs’ expert deposition but canceled the deposition and suggested early mediation.
Plaintiffs’ View of the Case
Plaintiffs’ counsel believes this is a strong case on liability with a lot of emotional appeal: suffering, death, and the indignity of dying as the result of essentially swimming in your own fecal matter. It is not going to be hard to convince a jury this is not how they want to die nor is it going to be difficult to convince them that the wrong approach to dealing with a leak in a colostomy bag is to throw a towel on it. Accordingly, the liability case is very strong.
The weaknesses in the case are the decedent’s age, venue (Baltimore County), the malpractice cap, and a relative paucity of economic damages ($97,000 in medical bills and $8,500 in funeral expenses). Of these, the biggest problem is the cap. Regardless of her age or how conservative the jury pool may be, it is difficult to imagine a favorable verdict in this case for less than the cap.
We took this case assuming we were going to try it and were surprised by Defendant’s counsel’s suggestion of mediation, particularly at this stage of the case. Plaintiffs certainly understand that some compromise is necessary to settle a case but Plaintiffs are not overeager to settle the case and are not willing to discount the value of the case.
I look forward to seeing you again.
Very truly yours,
Ronald V. Miller, Jr.