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Punitive Damages Claims Dismissed Against Nursing Home for Alleged Violations

Haym Solomon Home for the Aged (HSHA) moved to dismiss administrator Butler's claim for punitive damages asserted against it under Public Health Law §2801-d(2). Butler alleged HSHA violated §2801-d, claiming it violated decedent's rights by failing to provide wound care resulting in sepsis and death. HSHA's expert opined the record did not evidence neglect of decedent or his conditions, claiming his medical condition and death were secondary to his multiple morbidities. Butler's expert alleged defendant failed to prevent deterioration of skin ulcers while decedent was a resident of HSHA, resulting in an infection that led to death. The court noted that while there was ample guidance on punitive damages awards in negligence and malpractice actions, there was little direction as to the burden under the Public Health Law. Thus, the statute must provide direction, and the court found the instant case did not manifest a willful deprivation of a right or benefit, or a reckless disregard of a lawful right to decedent to permit his estate to maintain a claim for punitive damages. It concluded the ulcers decedent had upon his admission to HSHA did not deteriorate during his stay, hence, Butler's claims for punitive damages was dismissed.
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