By Michael R. Sisak (Staff Writer) Oct 25, 2012
A Luzerne County jury Thursday awarded more than $3 million in damages to the family of a developmentally disabled woman who died after workers at a group home failed to get her treatment for injuries she sustained in a car crash.
The workers, from the Hope Enterprises facility in Berwick, waited until a previously scheduled appointment the next day to bring Barbara Maines to a doctor. Even then, an attorney for Maines’ estate said, they would not disclose the manner or cause of her injuries.
Jurors awarded $3,118,628 in damages to Maines’ three sisters, a brother and her mother, including $7,284 for funeral costs, $11,343 for medical expenses and $100,000 in punitive damages. On a verdict form, they deemed the company’s conduct “outrageous.”
“This case is about trust and betrayal,” the attorney for the Maines family, Michael J. Pisanchyn, said after the verdict Thursday. “(The family) trusted the home and then, to have the home say they were taking care of Barbara and then not tell the hospital about the injuries, how much more betrayed can you get?”
An insurance carrier, Selective Insurance, is expected to pay the award on behalf of Williamsport-based Hope Enterprises. An attorney for the insurance carrier did not return a telephone message.
According to the lawsuit, Maines suffered a liver laceration when the Hope Enterprises van she was riding in slammed into the rear side panel of another vehicle in a Bloomsburg parking lot on Sept. 8, 2009. The driver of the van, Walter Brit, and other Hope Enterprises employees in the van never called emergency personnel, the lawsuit said.
The next day, around 12:30 p.m., Maines was admitted to the Geisinger Medical Center Outpatient Clinic in Danville for a regularly scheduled visit. Three hours later, doctors transferred her to the emergency room after she become unstable.
Maines, who had cerebral palsy and could not speak, continually moaned and whimpered from the apparent pain associated with her injuries, the lawsuit said. Doctors examined her and found that her belly had become tender and distended, the lawsuit said.
A review of Maines’ medical history showed she had been moaning and grunting on the way to the hospital, too. On Sept. 10, two days after the crash, employees of Hope Enterprises disclosed for the first time that Maines had been involved in a motor vehicle crash, the lawsuit said.
The doctors continued treating Maines into the early morning hours of Sept. 10. They revived her once before embarking on emergency surgery. There, the doctors noticed “an immediate rush” of fluid and blood. She died two hours later.
“If you have somebody who cannot speak, how do you know if they’re injured?” Pisanchyn said. “Barbara Maines was one of the most vulnerable people in our community. She could not speak for herself.”