TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER | STAFF WRITER | SCRANTON TIMES
A Lackawanna County jury awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages to the estate of a woman who broke her hip in a 2018 fall at a Scranton nursing home.
The verdict against Green Ridge Care Center and its corporate parent, Saber Healthcare Group, is in addition to $300,00 in compensatory damages a separate jury awarded the family of Mildred Bernavage, 92, following a trial in April.
Carolyn Vanston, Bernavage’s daughter, filed suit on her behalf in 2019. The suit, filed by Wilkes-Barre attorney Jamie Anzalone, alleges that Bernavage broke her hip in a fall in the shower and
staff aggravated the injury while transferring her. Bernavage died in March 2020.
The jury in the April trial found the nursing home staff was negligent and awarded damages to compensate Bernavage’s family for the pain and suffering she endured prior to her death, which
Anzalone said was unrelated to the injury suffered in the fall. The jury also found the facility acted with “reckless indifference,” which allowed Vanston to pursue a separate trial to seek punitive damages, Anzalone said.
Anzalone said the punitive damages portion of the trial was not held immediately after the liability phase because his firm needed additional time to research Saber Healthcare’s financial condition. By law, juries are allowed to consider a defendant’s ability to pay when considering punitive damages, he said.
A new jury was chosen Sept. 5 for the punitive damages phase. The panel heard four days of testimony before rendering its verdict Sept. 8.
“We were able to prove Saber Healthcare Group, through its administration at Green Ridge, exhibited a pattern of conduct where they knew people like Mrs. Bernavage were being transferred incorrectly,” Anzalone said. “Transfers like that were happening for months. Unfortunately, our client felt the brunt to that pattern of conduct.”
Attorney Kelly Ciravolo, who tried the case for Anzalone’s firm, said the verdict sends a message to all area homes that they must follow established protocols. “The rules were not being followed,” she said. “That will not be tolerated in this area.”
Attempts to reach representatives of Saber Healthcare Group were not successful.