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Retrial Ordered in Punitive Phase of Nursing Home Suit
02/27/2009
The Tennessean

MURFREESBORO - A state court has granted a retrial for punitive damage and upheld most of a separate $4.1 million compensatory damage award in a negligence lawsuit against National Healthcare Corp., a Murfreesboro-based nursing home operator.

Two years after a decision by a Warren County Circuit Court, three appellate judges of the Tennessee Court of Appeals decided to award all but $75,000 in compensatory damages, according to an opinion released this week.

The Appeals Court determined that trial Judge Bart Stanley erred in his decision to throw out almost all of an original $29.8 million punitive damage award, reducing the amount to $163,000.

The Appeals Court set aside that decision and ordered a retrial of the punitive phase in Warren County.

"NHC respectfully disagrees with the court's decision, and we plan further appeals," NHC spokesman Gerald Coggin said.

Death Prompted Suit

An initial lawsuit was brought against the company by the daughters of Cheatum Myers, an 88-year-old man who died at an NHC nursing home in McMinnville after allegedly being neglected. They sued the company for negligence, medical malpractice and wrongful death.

"We believe this is an egregious case of neglect, and we look forward to our new trial on punitive damages and holding the companies accountable for what happened to Mr. Myers," said Lisa Circeo, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

NHC has 60 days to file motions asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to reconsider the decision.

Former Nashville Chancellor Richard Dinkins delivered the court's opinion.