Eighty-nine year old Wilbur Jackson went to Grinnell’s Friendship Manor Care Center for rehabilitation after hip surgery. He was at the facility a mere 17 days before he sustained an injury that led to his untimely death.
In June 2009, Jackson was to be transported to a local hospital for testing. Midwest Ambulance Service of Iowa came to the facility and strapped Jackson to a gurney and began wheeling him to the facility’s driveway, where the ambulance was parked. At that point, Jackson was fully alert and joking with facility staff.
As the gurney was leaving the facility, one of the gurney wheels dropped into a crack on the sidewalk, flipping the gurney. Jackson’s head hit the pavement. He lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness. He died on July 5, 2009.
Jackson’s family sued the company that owns and manages Friendship Manor and Midwest Ambulance. According to the deposition of Richard Achenbach, the facility Administrator at the time of Jackson’s accident, he repaired the cracks in the sidewalk after the accident; in fact, he ordered them repaired after examining the cracks the morning following the accident. According to Achenbach, “When I seen the crack like that, I considered it could be a safety issue.”
A deposition of owner Tim Boyle revealed that Boyle did indeed know of about the sidewalk cracks and that the rebar used to reinforce the concrete was exposed and protruding through the cement. According to Boyle, “Although the rebar was exposed…it did not stick up far enough to be hazardous.”
Last week, a jury found the facility to be 90% at fault and Midwest Ambulance to be 10% at fault. Damages were assessed at $546,386, with a $491,747 judgment against the facility. Midwest Ambulance was ordered to pay $54,639. Additionally, after Jackson’s death, Friendship Manor was fined $3,250 by the federal government.
Reportedly, Friendship Manor has a history of violations. In 2005, a facility employee was convicted of sexually abusing two residents. In 2008, the facility was fined $112,650 after Ruth Louden, a resident at the facility, had to have her legs amputated due to gangrene.