Jury Awards Family $4.85 Million for Nursing Home Death Resulting from Morphine Overdose

The family of a Newport, MI man who died in 2002 after receiving a morphine overdose at a local nursing home has won a $4.85 million civil judgment against the facility. A three-week medical malpractice trial against Mercy Memorial Nursing Center in Frenchtown Township ended last Friday after the jury found the doctor and nurses negligent in the death of 76-year-old Burr Needham.

Mr. Needham was undergoing physical therapy at the Mercy Memorial Nursing Center after suffering a nondisplaced hip fracture. Mr. Needham’s family filed the civil lawsuit in 2005 against the home, contending that Dr. Arun Gupta and five nurses were responsible for the death of Mr. Needham after administering too much painkiller after he entered the center on April 26, 2002. In fact, according to the Needham family’s attorney, hospital documentation clearly indicated that the nursing home staff couldn’t account for the large amounts of morphine administered to Mr. Needham. Specifically, the documentation showed that morphine was unaccounted for on Mr. Needham’s chart. The Wayne County Medical examiner also confirmed that Mr. Needham’s death was caused by acute morphine intoxication.

Court records indicated that the jury awarded $3 million of the total judgment to Mrs. Needham, who died in 2007 of cancer, for her loss of companionship. In addition, the panel decided that $1.5 million should go for the pain and suffering that Mr. Needham experienced while at the nursing home. The remaining $350,000 was awarded to the family for damages that Mrs. Needham incurred for burial costs and the loss of gifts and valuables she would have received until her death had Mr. Needham survived.

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