Nursing home must pay resident’s estate $417,000

BARTOW – A Polk County jury ordered a Winter Haven nursing home to pay more than $417,000 in damages to the estate of one of its former residents.

On Jan. 19, the jury found Mariner Health Care of Winter Haven, which is no longer in Winter Haven, at fault for injuries suffered by Thelmer Loraine Franks, 89.

In 1999, Franks was a resident at Mariner Health Care’s nursing home, which was located at 1540 Sixth Street, N.W., and is now the location of the Spring Lake Nursing.

On Aug. 2, 1999, Patsy Whiddin, a certified nursing assistant at the home, asked Franks if she was ready to go to bed.

When Franks said no, another certified nursing assistant, Vicky Freeman, said “I’ll put her to bed, watch me,” and began pushing Franks’ wheelchair toward her room.

Franks’ foot got caught under the chair and though Whiddin “screamed for her to watch out,” Freeman continued pushing the chair.

At one point, court documents said, Freeman gave the chair a “hard lunge” and Franks was thrown out of the chair face down onto the concrete floor, the wheelchair on top of her.

Franks was taken to Winter Haven Hospital where, attorney M. Lance Holden, who was one of the attorneys representing Franks’ estate, said conflicting stories were told about how Franks had been hurt.

Though Freeman and the nursing home’s administrator Doug Cooper told Franks’ family that her fall was an accident, Whiddin refused to lie about the incident, court documents said.

Franks died 14 months after the incident, Holden said, but the brain injury she sustained at the nursing home turned her into a “vegetable.”

Though Franks’ family and attorneys believe that her death was the result of Freeman’s actions, the jury disagreed.

The jury did, however, find Mariner Health Care, as Freeman’s employer, negligent and the cause of Franks’ injuries.

The jury’s findings, Holden said, showed that “an 89-year-old woman in Polk County, Florida does have rights and is worth something.”